Monday, January 02, 2012

To Newt Gingrich, on the occasion of his claiming to have been "Romney-boated"

Mr. Gingrich, some of us spent a whole lot of time and effort investigating and, then, publicizing John F. Kerry's true military record — including its blatant lies and exaggerations — in the 2004 election. We are extremely grateful to the men who served with Kerry on the U.S. Navy's "Swift Boats" in the riverways and canals of Vietnam, and who came forward in 2004 to tell what they knew.

We believe these "SwiftVets" were, are, and will always be brave patriots.

Then there are those others who, for whatever reasons, think that these veterans' campaign to put Kerry's military career under a more accurate spotlight was inappropriate, notwithstanding Kerry's own aggressive but dishonest efforts to portray himself as an Audie Murphy or a Sgt. York. Those Kerry allies feel sorry for poor John, and they (including their allies in the reflexively-liberal mainsream media) coined the term "Swift-Boated" to mean something awful, something nasty and dishonest. This cynical linguistic formulation is as neat a 180-degree reversal of the truth as any propaganda machine has ever attempted.

The truth is that the SwiftVets sunk Kerry's campaign by making it widely known that instead of being a hero in the Vietnam War, Kerry bugged out of active combat early, with a chestful of medals he deserved only barely or in some cases not at all; he returned home to provide Congress with his sworn testimony that falsely condemned his own comrades of being war criminals; and that while still a commissioned officer in the Navy Reserve, with his uniform hanging neatly in a Washington closet, John Kerry secretly connived with the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese delegations in Paris to undercut America's position. If there's anything equally perfidious in Gingrich's past, then I certainly hope some other GOP candidate would run advertisements to reveal that! And for those of us who supported the SwiftVets' efforts in 2004, their resulting success is seared — seared! — in our collective memories.

Thus, I'm inclined to spin on my heel and walk rapidly away, disgustedly, from anyone who uses the term "Swift-Boated" the way Kerry and his allies do. I do not want a president who identifies and sympathizes with John Kerry over men who are real heroes.

So when you're complaining about how hot it is in the kitchen you're trying to stay in, Mr. Gingrich, you might think twice, and then three times, about whining that you're being "Romney-boated" by attack ads.

If you want to pretend you haven't attacked other candidates for the GOP nomination, or if you think you can prove that there's something egregiously wrong with other GOP candidates attacking you — and if you think that's a plus for you, something that will give us confidence in your prospective ability to stand up under Obama's attack ads for the rest of 2012 if you're our nominee — then make your best pitch.

But if you make it in this language, you can expect an extremely frosty reception from people like me. Those people are going to tell you, "If that's what you think about the SwiftVets, then you can go straight to hell, Mr. Gingrich!" And then they're going to walk away from you as fast as they can, fists clenched at their sides (lucky for you).

You'd best apologize, Mr. Gingrich. Alas, for those of us who fear you've long since been captured by the Beltway Mentality, for those of us who fear you really do naturally sympathize and empathize with John F'ing Kerry over the men who stayed and fought, apologies don't go very far against evidence like this.

Posted by Beldar at 02:04 PM in History, Politics (2011), SwiftVets | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why not Huntsman?

My younger son, Adam, asked in a comment to my "None of the Above" post just below "what the problem is" that blocks serious consideration of Jon Huntsman as a potential GOP presidential nominee. My blogospheric friends Milhouse and Gregory Koster left interesting responses to Adam's question, but I decided to post my own reply as a new post rather than a comment to that one. Thus:

My reservations about Governor Huntsman — or, to be impliedly less flattering to him, Ambassador Huntsman — aren't primarily that he's "insufficiently conservative." He was dim on climate change/cap and trade, but that's mostly a moot point as a specific policy matter. It does leave a troubling example of him buying into a liberal narrative that was so potentially devastating to the economy without managing to grasp the reasons for skepticism about the warming alarmists' dire predictions. So it's no more than one troubling data point for me.

Rather, my main objection to Huntsman is that he'd done nothing before this campaign season to merit America's attention as a plausible President of the United States. It's what I perceive to be a lack of demonstrated fitness for the job, either in an absolute sense or in comparison to the current available alternatives. Six months ago the question that potential GOP primary voters had about Jon Huntsman was not "Is he sufficiently conservative?" but rather, "Jon who?"

If he did anything particularly distinguished as Obama's ambassador to China (other than resign, and that to run for office rather than over some principled critique of Obama's foreign policy or even China policy), I'm unaware of that. Neither am I aware of any disaster on his relatively short watch, and I'll grant that China is an important ambassadorship — it was a résumé credential for George H.W. Bush, too, some will recall. But Bush was the quasi-ambassador immediately after Nixon re-established relations, during an even more challenging time (when the concern wasn't the Chinese manipulating currency rates so much as it was the Red Army); and it didn't amount to almost half of Bush-41's overall résumé content, either (as Huntsman's ambassadorship does for his résumé).

Likewise, it appears from what I've read and heard that Huntsman was a reasonably competent, reasonably conservative Utah governor during his two terms there. That's nice, but it's not nearly so demanding a job as being governor of a big state, or a border state, or a racially and ethnically diverse state. And Huntsman (like Rick Perry, but unlike Mitt Romney) didn't have to do a lot of swimming upstream; he apparently governed from midstream in a broadbased conservative constituency. There are several dozen current and recent GOP governors who've actually made a national impression with their work — Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindahl, and Nikki Haley immediately pop to mind. Why should I prefer Huntsman to peers who've accomplished much more, and against much more difficult odds?

As for his private industry credentials, he doesn't tout those much, and Huntsman Corporation has a fairly low profile among the general public; it was a company he took over from his dad, I believe, but I think it was generally well respected. Again, that's a nice credential; but there are surely thousands of business executives with comparable or better records — heck, there are probably dozens of businessmen who are also ex-ambassadors to somewhere with better records.

I am untroubled that he or Romney are LDS. He and all the other GOP candidates are somewhat to my right on at least some so-called "social issues" on which I trend more libertarian, but those issues are also relatively far down my priority list. However, my subjective personal reaction to Huntsman, based on his debate performances, has not been positive; he's not dynamic by nature and flails around badly when he tries to be. Poor dull Mitt at least had the sex appeal of association with the Winter Olympics that he rescued (in Huntsman's home state). Huntsman makes Mitt seem positively charismatic and spontaneous by comparison, which is a very tall order.

More worrisome to me: Not a single one of Huntsman's debate answers left me thinking, "Wow, I can imagine myself voting for him! I can imagine lots of conservatives voting for him!" In baseball terms, he's laid down a few sacrifice bunts to advance another runner, and he might even have beat out the throw to first himself a time or two — but he's never had a solid hit into the outfield, much less a multi-bagger or a home run, in many dozens of at-bats now.

(Romney, by contrast, bats for average, and Newt, of course, swings for the fences. Perry has set new records for going down swinging at strikes, and it seems that Cain has been ejected, fairly or not. Nor Luap is somewhere in the left outfield bleachers, or maybe he's playing cricket, who knows?)

No, Jon Huntsman has had his chances with me and with most other Republican partisans who've been paying close attention — more chances, frankly, than he deserved, and that's been a consequence of too many debates with too many unserious candidates included too late in the process. Yet he's still polling no better than 2.5 to 3% nationally. The left-leaning (and sometimes non-credible) PPP service reported back in July that more Utah respondents had a negative impression (46%) of Huntsman than a positive impression (43%), and that Romney was pulling in 63% of Utah Republicans to lead the then-current pack, with favorite son Huntsman a distant second place at 10%.

Huntsman's current wavelet among bloggers and others in the chattering classes isn't likely to translate into broad support, because I'm pretty sure more than half of all American voters still couldn't pick Huntsman out of a police lineup, or tell you three significant things about him. I'm supposed to believe that he's somehow transformed himself from an also-ran into a contender? When did that happen? What's the evidence for it? I don't see it. He's not even well known enough yet outside of Utah to be very many people's second or third choice. So convince me that he's going to beat the guy who, in 2008, brought out a record 69.4 million Americans to vote for him, even though Huntsman has spent months consistently languishing below 5% in anyone's and everyone's GOP primary polling. Tell me why the GOP ought to put all its hopes for defeating Barack Obama on someone pulled from obscurity, if at all, not on the basis of his own accomplishments, but only because of intense GOP hunger for a better candidate than any of the current or recent front-runners?

So, you ask me: Why not Huntsman? My answer is that I never get to that question, because he never passes my threshold inquiry: Why Huntsman? He had never earned an important or serious position on my political radar screen before this election cycle, even though I've been a fairly close student of current affairs and political players. And he's done nothing since becoming a candidate to change that. That I'm still at least somewhat dissatisfied with the major candidates currently in the race isn't going to cause me to abandon my standards entirely, and while of course I'd vote for Huntsman in the unlikely event he gets the nomination, I personally rank him below (in alphabetical order) Gingrich, Perry, Romney, and even Santorum (i.e., I rank him ahead of only Bachmann and Nor Laup).

Posted by Beldar at 06:25 AM in 2012 Election, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Could "None of the Above" still join the race for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination?

Conservatives like me who haven't quite gotten comfortable with any of the existing GOP presidential candidates yet may be intrigued by Larry Sabato's analysis of the obstacles and odds that would confront a late entrant into the race. 

The current selection system guarantees that a relatively small number of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have a wildly disproportionate impact every single election cycle. They've seized this power arbitrarily, and they maintain it for absolutely no reason other than that they've threatened to hold their noses and turn blue (i.e., hold their 2012 primaries in 2011) if their childish demands for primacy aren't respected by everyone else. This is profoundly anti-democratic (small "d"), and I will work to reform and replace that system regardless of the results of this cycle.

For now, speculation like Sabato's remains improbable. But it's a good excuse for me not to change my side-bar endorsement ("Draft Paul Ryan") for at least a few more weeks.

Posted by Beldar at 07:05 PM in 2012 Election, Politics (2011), Ryan | 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

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wishful thinking on the Left

‎"This is our most desperate hour. Help us, Obi-Wan Hillary! You're our only hope!"

— My paraphrase of this Clintonista op-ed in today's WSJ, which urges Obama to abandon his campaign so that the Dems can nominate his SecState as their 2012 presidential candidate "by acclamation." (So much for small-d democracy in the Democratic Party, eh?)

Actually, if they could just get Joe Biden, John Boehner, and Daniel Inouye to resign in series immediately after Obama did, then the Dems could run Hillary as the incumbent.

Posted by Beldar at 07:03 PM in 2012 Election, Film/TV/Stage, Humor, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Shocking pix prove that at Bain Capital, Romney and friends had access to at least $100 in cash

I'm shocked — shocked! — to learn that while working at a company with a two-word name, the second word of which is a synonym for "money," a young Mitt Romney had the bad taste to allow himself to be photographed touching some actual cash currency. As republished and described in the Boston Globe:

Despite the pressures at Bain Capital, Mitt Romney kept the atmosphere loose. One year, after posing for a photo for a firm brochure, the partners did another take, the second time holding $10 and $20 bills. From left, Fraser Bullock, Eric A. Kriss, Joshua Bekenstein, Mitt Romney, Coleman Andrews, Geoffrey S. Rehnert, and Robert F. White. (Provided by Bain Capital)

Mitt Romney & colleagues at Bain Capital in gag photo

Actually, if any of Bain Capital's deals ever were transacted using $10 and $20 bills, I really would be shocked.

But seriously, the Romney campaign should put this photo up on their website. If Obama wants to continue to run his 2012 reelection campaign on the notion that Obama is pro-job but anti-business despite double-digit real unemployment, that will be interesting to watch.

(Hat-tip: Karl @ Patterico's, in an interesting post about prospective Obama campaign strategies.)

Posted by Beldar at 10:12 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Obama, Politics (2011), Romney | Permalink | Comments (0) | 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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beldar on Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan

I commend to you in its entirety this post by my friend Dafydd ab Hugh at Big Lizards — a discussion of Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan that Dafydd entitled, "Nein, nein, nein." Dafydd argues that Congress would inevitably raise a national sales tax once it got that fiscal camel's nose under the tent; that the addition of a national sales tax would encourage states and municipalities to raise their own existing sales taxes; and that our more urgent national problem is spending, while more modest tax reforms could probably suffice for the near term. He concludes:

Herman Cain is a great guy, so far as I can tell; and he can do a great service by focusing debate on what really matters right now: the existential threat posed to the United States by Barack H. Obama and the demented Democrats. He might make a good vice president; one hopes he can learn to handle a bureaucracy in time to run for the big chair again in eight years. But right now, his only trick — 9, 9, 9 — is just a catchy and clever red herring.

I reprint here, too, my own critique (slightly edited) that I left as a comment on Dafydd's post at Big Lizards:

Let's just presume for a moment that as a policy matter, Mr. Cain is correct, and that we should abandon our current federal revenue-raising system in favor of his 9-9-9 plan. Let's leave aside our objections over such matters as whether sales taxes/VATs are regressive, or whether they make it too easy for the government to raise taxes in the future. Let's join in Mr. Cain's optimistic assumptions about how the economy's better performance would make up any revenue gaps between his plan and what's currently in place. Just assume with me for a moment, in other words, that we all want the kind of reform Cain proposes, where we go to a flat tax on businesses, a flat tax on individuals, and a flat national sales tax.

And assume we set out to figure out the optimum rates for each of those three kinds of flat-rate taxes, to accomplish a Goldilocks ("just right") combination of those three, so that they produce as much revenue as the federal government now takes in. Yet those numbers must redistribute the burden of that revenue-raising in a simpler, more transparent, and more equitable way, one that also better encourages business development than our current tax code (and its maze of tax breaks and complexities). Mr. Cain's plan purports to do all of these things, if we accept it at face value.

What are the odds that the optimum number for each of these three new types of federal taxation — each very different from one another — would happen to be the very same single-digit integer?

This isn't economics. It's a gimmick. This is national economic "plan" that was obviously reverse-engineered from a catchy slogan.

Mr. Cain can't tell you why 9-9-9 would be better or worse than 8.311 - 12.897 - 5.135. No one's ever run the numbers on anything except 9-9-9 because those are the numbers that had to be accepted in order for the name to be catchy.

I'm in favor of big, bold reforms. I'm very wary of either a national sales tax or a national business VAT for the same sorts of reasons Dafydd has mentioned. But I'm not going to bother taking seriously something this gimmicky; it's not serious enough to trigger a discussion on any of the policy pros and cons of these kinds of taxation in general, because this plan is tied to rates that were picked specifically and solely because they can be easily chanted by a crowd/mob.

In tonight's GOP presidential debate from Nevada (which I recorded but didn't watch live, and which I have paused as I write this), CNN's Anderson Cooper presided over a very intentional and methodical skewering of Mr. Cain's 9-9-9 plan by every other candidate on stage. One criticism that most of the other candidates voiced — and that both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney hit particularly hard — was that taxpayers/voters would rebel against being required to pay both a state sales tax and a national sales tax.

Somehow, Cain couldn't manage to quite frame the "apples versus oranges" metaphor persuasively, although it's a perfectly valid and logical response: Mr. Cain's plan, at least if you take it at face value and accept its underlying assumptions, wouldn't change taxpayers' existing state tax burdens at all, and Cain argues that the federal taxes that his 9-9-9 plan would replace wouldn't extract any additional revenue out of the tax base, but that it would instead redistribute the same overall federal tax burden more equitably and in a way that encouraged economic growth. So I thought that particular line of attack — while probably quite effective, as perceived by many in the audience — was not terribly fair, and indeed was calculated to exploit confusion and ignorance of either federalism in general or the details of Mr. Cain's plan in particular. Probably by tomorrow Mr. Cain will have figured out how to make the "apples and oranges" metaphor work more smoothly than he did tonight, despite several attempts.

But there are plenty of other concerns and criticisms that are fair to raise, and that lots of people besides Mr. Cain's opponents also find troubling. Dafydd's point is undeniable: what's urgent is that we address current spending, then the mathematically and actuarially certain on-coming train of Baby-Boomer-driven entitlement spending. For purposes of addressing our distressing and chronic unemployment, sputtering economy, and growing stagflation, the other urgent high priority is releasing business from the crush of new Obama-era federal regulations — most of which stifle economic development with inadequate or even no benefit in return — and, of course, the slaying of the worst dragon spawned by Obama, his signature infliction upon the Republic, Obamacare. Doing those things would make for an ambitious agenda for any new Congress and POTUS to undertake before the 2014 elections. And perhaps our new president could then undertake further and more radical alteration of the tax code by gathering a mandate for in that campaign season.

Posted by Beldar at 03:13 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Beldar on Tuesday's GOP debate

Stephen Green's drunkblogging of the GOP debate was inspired tonight, although for the cultural references to Bad Lip Reading, you'll need to watch the Perry and Bachmann videos presently linked here. I posted my own mid-debate reactions as a comment at Patterico's starting here, and I'll reprint them here (slightly edited for clarity):


Congresswoman Bachmann is exceeding my expectations for her (which were very, very low), but it doesn’t matter for this primary.

Rose & Co.’s contempt for Ron Paul is palpable. They wish he were elsewhere. They clearly see themselves as having to give a turn to the crazy old uncle, whose rantings they then time to the second before interrupting and moving on. Curiously, he seems vaguely flattered by this instead of being offended.

The only person on stage who would be an interesting companion on a two-person non-campaign road trip is Newt. He’d be fascinating, and at the end of the trip I’d be glad I have my own place to go home to (and he to his).

Cain isn’t hurting himself. I think he may lock up the Veep nomination before anyone locks up the top spot — that would be novel.

Santorum has fought, and mostly mastered, a tendency to sound bitter over the fact that he’s not gaining any ground despite solid debate performances from the beginning.

Is it possible that Gov. Perry doesn’t practice for these things at all? He’s obviously nervous and ill-at-ease; he looks as though someone from Gov. Romney’s camp is administering painful electric shocks to the soles of his feet at random moments.

Rose & Co. are reflexively liberal but they’re working hard to avoid a circus, and the result is a tone and atmosphere that reflects well on the entire field. (Not what Rose & Co. intended, but I’ll settle for any happy unintended consequence.)

During the long passage with Romney over 2008 & TARP, I thought Gov. Romney had seized the moment fairly effectively. He has a terribly difficult tightrope to travel on this topic, and at the end of the day, if he were to become the nominee, there are still going to be a whole lot of conservatives who will react to his answers as being double-talk or flip-flops. In this forum, though, and in particular against Gov. Perry, he’s demonstrating a genuinely impressive verbal dexterity; and just as there are some who will be discomforted by the substance of his answer, there are others (including, in theory, some fair number of independents) who will be comforted.

So far, I think Gov. Romney’s helped himself again, and that from a strategic posture where he’d be winning merely by not obviously losing.

[Then, in about three-quarters in, I added:]

I’m running a few minutes behind on my DVR playback, but I finally thought I heard Perry deliver a good line on a strong point that he had indeed effectively tied to his own record in Texas — and he ends it this way:

You free up this country’s entrepreneurs, where they know that they can risk their capital and have a chance to have a return on investment, and all of this conversation [about free trade] we’re having today becomes substantially less impactful.

“Substantially less impactful." Sigh.

[Then, addressing a fellow Texan and Perry supporter after the debate was over:]

Dustin, I’ll grant you that Gov. Perry was better in the second half of this debate than in the first half, and somewhat better overall than he’s been in previous debates. I don’t think he made up any significant ground, though.

He’s got money and organization sufficient to stay in the race for many, many more weeks even if he doesn’t improve in the public opinion polling. But every night like tonight is an irretrievable missed opportunity for him, and unless he really catches fire or Romney commits a serious unforced error very soon, it’s hard to project a plausible path for him to become the nominee.

I have not given up on his candidacy, and we’re quite a ways from even the first meaningful vote being cast or the first delegate selected. But Gov. Perry hasn’t begun running a presidential-level campaign yet. His candidacy begins to resemble John Connally’s in 1980 or Phil Graham’s in 1996.

Posted by Beldar at 01:29 AM in 2012 Election, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Friday, October 07, 2011

Beldar on Cain's surging popularity

What follows is a republication here (slightly edited) of a comment I left on a post by my blogospheric friend Aaron Worthing at Patterico's Pontifications. Aaron's subject was Herman Cain's surge in the GOP presidential polling.


I like Mr. Cain, and I like him better the more I see of him. There is no doubt that he has a big future, if he wants one, in GOP electoral politics, even though he lost the only previous election he’s ever run (for a U.S. Senate seat from Georgia). He would certainly make a fine cabinet officer, and I can imagine many scenarios in which he would be an acceptable GOP vice presidential nominee (he’s said he’d be okay with that if the nominee were anyone but Perry, a hint Romney can hardly ignore).

I can entertain, patiently and with good cheer, arguments that for purposes of how Mr. Cain would govern as POTUS, the fact that he has no prior government experience in any capacity is a feature and not a bug. I have a hard time understanding why it’s a feature for him when inexperience has been such a spectacularly obvious bug with Barack Obama, but okay — let’s set aside for the nonce the question of how Mr. Cain would govern.

Focus on the necessary predicate question: Can Herman Cain get elected?

The answer to that is plainly “no,” and that is not something that I think can be plausibly argued otherwise. It would not just be risky, but inexcusably naive and reckless to run a political novice against Barack Obama’s $2B (direct expenditures; multiply that by five, perhaps, on indirect money) campaign juggernaut.

Oh, I know the meme of the moment is that Obama has lost his magic, yada yada. All I can say is at this same point in the cycle, Bush-41 was thought to not only be magical but invulnerable, and he ended up losing. Military commanders teach us not to plan based on our perception of the enemy’s likely intentions but based on the enemy’s likely capabilities. Obama’s demonstrated capabilities as a candidate include (a) soundly beating, in a siege-war Democratic primary, the same Clinton machine that had whipped Bush-41; and (b) even more soundly beating the McCain-Palin ticket, who top member was supposed to be the GOP alternative who was most attractive to centrists/independents.

I like the GOP’s chances to take the White House. I don’t like those chances so much that I’m willing to bet the ranch — to risk having to endure four more years of Obama — on a guy who’s never won an election anywhere for anything. Expecting someone with no political experience to beat Obama is expecting the kind of miracle that only happens in Hollywood scripts (e.g., Kevin Kline’s “Dave“). In the real world, the political novice just gets slaughtered.

Since Obama has nothing to run on but a bad record, his only path to re-election is to convince just enough voters that he’s the lesser of two evils. His entire extended campaign strategy — embracing not just the formal campaign structure but all the fellow travelers, Soros babies, the entire MSM, Hollywood, etc. — will depend on demonizing the GOP nominee, whoever that is. You think that’s already happening? No. Remember the level of frenzied demonization that attached to Sarah Palin within the first 90 seconds after McCain’s selection of her became public. We’re going to see that again, but for closer to a full year and at the additional volume that ten times the money will buy. Does anyone really think Herman Cain is the best choice to weather that firestorm?

Mr. Cain is due serious credit for his improvement in the polls. Nevertheless: no GOP candidate, no front-runner of the day or week or month, has yet moved out ahead of the pack in terms of deep, committed support. Gov. Romney started the campaign with the most loyal supporters, and he remains the candidate whose support is least likely to switch of everyone currently in the race. But that’s somewhere in the 15-20% range of likely GOP primary voters, enough to keep Romney in the top tier to the end but not enough to run away with it unless something important changes.

Which it probably will. I don’t know what. Could be Perry dramatically outperforming expectations at the next couple of debates. Could be someone else who’s previously ruled out running, reconsidering. (Draft Paul Ryan!)

But handicapping it just from today’s perspective, I’d say a potential Romney-Cain ticket has the best odds on the board.

Posted by Beldar at 07:26 PM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (3) | 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

The Obama Administration, women, and the nunc pro tunc son-of-a-bitch rule

Regular readers may recall that after law school and a one-year judicial clerkship, I spent six years in the early 1980s working as an associate in the Trial Department of Texas' oldest law firm, BigLaw stalwart Baker Botts. When I started there, in keeping with the practice of that firm at the time, I assisted more senior lawyers on some very big cases, but I was also handed a "docket" of my own — a collection of already-in-progress small and medium-sized cases deemed appropriate for handling by an associate — with the instruction to "do the necessary." When new cases of that sort came in, the department head or his assistant typically distributed those among the department's associates. This, in turn, was accomplished by walking into the chosen associate's office and dropping the file (typically comprising only a new lawsuit just served on a firm client and a transmittal memo) on the associate's desk, always with the instruction to "handle this to conclusion."

The firm wasn't prone to hiring idiots, so we knew that implicit in these dramatically sparse instructions was the expectation that we would seek guidance, instruction, inspiration, review, and criticism in connection with our own efforts to "do the necessary" and "handle to a conclusion." And the available teaching faculty included a very deep and very diverse set of several dozen Trial Department partners and associates whose experience ranged from other just-starting lawyers to senior partners with individual experience measured in decades and jury verdicts numbered in the hundreds.

It was a wonderful system. Through it, in some respects I taught myself my profession; and in other respects, through it I learned my profession studying at the knees or elbows of those with more, and sometimes great, mastery.


The system did have some dark aspects to it, though. And one of them related to the "up or out" nature of BigLaw associate status. Most associates didn't become partners; most left before they were up for partnership consideration, sometimes because they'd decided BigLaw wasn't for them, some because they wanted to go in-house with clients or become entrepreneurs; some wanted to change practices (e.g., by moving to a plaintiffs' personal injury firm); and a relatively small number were gently nudged into looking elsewhere because their performance was thought below the firm's expectations. And every time an associate left, his or her entire docket had to be re-assigned.

I remember discussing that process one day with a more senior associate whose advice I had sought in trying to figure out one of the personal injury defense cases I'd inherited from a just-departed associate whom I'll call "Bob." The case was dangerous; its development by Bob had been just barely adequate; and it urgently needed lots of work, much of which (like finding and working up expert witnesses) could have been done better if it had been started much earlier. "Wow," I commented, "I'm surprised the firm thinks I can handle this."

My older colleague said, "Well, you know, there's a benefit to you in getting to take over a case like this that's already so close to trial. Are you familiar with the 'nunc pro tunc son-of-a-bitch rule'?"

"The what?"

"You know the Latin phrase 'nunc pro tunc'?" he asked.

"Sure," I replied, "it means 'now for then.' Like with a revised judgment submitted for the purpose of completely replacing an earlier judgment that had some important error in it. Something the law deems a complete and retroactive replacement, as if the earlier version had never even existed. Neat phrase, powerful stuff! But what's that got to do with Bob handing over this case to me when he left the firm?"

"It means," he answered, "that Bob is your ready-made 'nunc pro tunc sun-of-a-bitch'!" But I continued to stare blankly at him.

"Look," he explained more patiently, "You took over handling twenty-something of Bob's other files, the whole docket for [Valued Firm Client from the Fortune 500 List], when he left. You've seen his work closely and in volume now. Was Bob a good lawyer?"

"Yes," I said truthfully. "This is the only case he was working on that really seemed to have gotten a bit beyond him."

"That's right," he said, "and while he was here, everyone liked Bob, and they all genuinely wish him well in his new job. He'll be a respected alumnus of this firm for the rest of his career, and we may refer some business his way or support him if he decides to run for some judgeship. Bob's a great guy, and a solid, competent lawyer. I mean that.

"But," he continued, "every case has the potential to go south in a hurry. This looks like one you're going to have to take all the way to a verdict; I don't think it can be settled at anything close to what our client is willing to pay, or that the client should be willing to pay. If you're not losing any cases —"

We both finished the sentence in unison: "— you're not trying enough cases!" This is a truism, a fundamental tenet of the trial lawyer's faith, already drilled into me when I'd been a mere summer clerk, and at more than one very fine law firm.

"And yet," the older associate continued, "you don't have to worry about the microscope only being put on you if you end up taking a thrashing from the jury, or about taking all the blame yourself, because Bob is ...." He waited for me to finish this thought too.

I answered hesitantly: "... the son-of-a-bitch who screwed this case up before I ever touched it?"

He made the "Charades" gesture: index finger to the tip of his nose. "Exactly! Bob's a great guy, but now he's gone. So if need be, he becomes a son-of-a-bitch. Retroactively. Just as if he'd always been a son-of-a-bitch. Nunc pro tunc, now for then. And it's an irrebutable presumption."

"Meaning," I said, "not just a presumption, but really a pre-determined conclusion that can't be challenged."

"Meaning exactly that, yes. And also meaning that Bob's not around anymore to rebut it. He'll probably never even hear about this. He'll never know that, for purposes of this case, 'Bob's a hale fellow well-met' got replaced with 'Bob was a lousy son-of-a-bitch who screwed this pooch beyond rescue.'"

I rubbed my chin and pondered this for a minute. Then I asked a question that seemed obvious, and was: "The nunc pro tunc son-of-a-bitch rule won't impress clients a bit, will it?"

"No," answered my slightly older and much wiser colleague. "This client's legal department in Chicago probably hasn't even noticed that you've taken over this file, despite your letter. We're all just fungible Baker Botts associates to them. You score no points at all by blaming Bob to them, so don't even think about it. You may have a nunc pro tunc son-of-a-bitch in waiting, but you still better win the case if it possibly can be won."

I thought a little more. "And the Trial Department head who assigned this case to me —"

"— knows exactly how big a challenge he just handed you," he confirmed. "The 'nunc pro tunc son-of-a-bitch rule' won't work on him, either, nor on anyone in the partnership who's evaluating your progress. You should always assume that they already know everything, but then point out everything important anyway, as a back-up and because you're supposed to, and then send them a memo as a back-up to that too. But yeah, they know they've just given you a big challenge, and they're waiting to see what you do with it."

"So who will the 'nunc pro tunc son-of-a-bitch rule' really help me with?" I asked.

"Only people who don't know any better," said my friend, "like, maybe, your parents or your girlfriend or your buddies at some other firm, when you're trying to explain to them how the firm's good client got tagged by the jury for umpty-ump million dollars while you were defending them." He stopped and seemed to contemplate the consequences of what he'd just said as if something new had occurred to him. "I guess," he finished, "it only works on people who are clueless and who are willing to be fooled."

"I see," I said.


I thought of the nunc pro tunc son-of-a-bitch rule, and who it may be effective in fooling, when I watched the video of White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley blaming his immediate predecessor — famed ballet dancer, idiot savant investment banker, and Chicago-Way politician Rahm Emanuel, now mayor of Chicago — for reports that women staffers felt they had been "marginalized" by senior male members of the early Obama administration. If you can't figure out why I made that association, then you're precisely the sort of person the 'nunc pro tunc son-of-a-bitch rule' was created in order to influence.

Posted by Beldar at 06:52 PM in Current Affairs, Law (2011), Obama, Politics (2011), Trial Lawyer War Stories | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Beldar on Palin's announcement

On June 8, 2008 — months before John McCain surprised the world with his vice presidential nominee — I was writing about then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a potentially transformative choice for that position. No one, however, predicted how much of a national lightning rod she would become. I was disappointed in her decision to resign from her governorship after the 2008 election, but I was neither surprised nor disappointed at Gov. Palin's announcement today that she definitely will not be a candidate for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

I am also sure that Gov. Palin is aware that Mark Begich — the former Anchorage mayor who snuck into the U.S. Senate on Obama's coattails in 2008 — is up for reelection in 2014. If Gov. Palin wishes to become a political candidate again (as opposed to a pundit and speaker), Begich's seat would be her next logical target.

Posted by Beldar at 06:35 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Palin, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Fi$cal woes in ¢alifornia

It's not often that I link to Vanity Fair, but this article by financial writer Michael Lewis ("Liar's Poker," "Moneyball") is well worth it. Lewis' subject this time is the looming financial crisis at the state and, especially, local government level — one driven largely (but far from entirely) by unfunded pension liabilities. And it is very interesting, utterly terrifying, stuff, but characteristically for Lewis, it's explained in a very human way that's clear and extremely accessible. Lewis has a dry wit and a keen appreciation of the ironic. He explains financial issues through the voices of the colorful individuals he tends to write about. And because he has piqued your interest in those individuals, you tend follow his discussion of the financial issues easily and keenly too, because his subjects' fortunes (literally and figuratively) are being determined by those same financial issues.

Lewis' particular focus is on the poster-child for the problem, California, of which he notes:

California had organized itself, not accidentally, into highly partisan legislative districts. It elected highly partisan people to office and then required these people to reach a two-thirds majority to enact any new tax or meddle with big spending decisions. On the off chance that they found some common ground, it could be pulled out from under them by voters through the initiative process. Throw in term limits — no elected official now serves in California government long enough to fully understand it — and you have a recipe for generating maximum contempt for elected officials. Politicians are elected to get things done and are prevented by the system from doing it, leading the people to grow even more disgusted with them. "The vicious cycle of contempt," as Mark Paul calls it. California state government was designed mainly to maximize the likelihood that voters will continue to despise the people they elect.

But when you look below the surface, he adds, the system is actually very good at giving Californians what they want. “What all the polls show,” says Paul, “is that people want services and not to pay for them. And that’s exactly what they have now got.”

And therein lies a nasty problem. Don't read this article if you're already depressed. Lewis tries to salvage an upbeat ending, but that, too, is another as-yet-unfunded liability.

Despite that, Lewis' article ends up making a powerful conservative statement by necessary implication: What's killing paradise? Government overspending. How to fix that? Lewis doesn't ever say in so many words, but ... well, duh. The cure is obvious, but when and how it will begin being seriously administered, and what chaos will wrack the patient in the meantime (especially in its most afflicted extremities, like California), is still anything but clear.

Posted by Beldar at 06:52 AM in Budget/economics, Current Affairs, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Ryan reviews Sachs' ode to nanny-statism, "The Price of Civilization"

Politicians are often credited with op-eds that are published in their names, and that may indeed express their views, but that were mostly written by a staff member or aide. This has been true at least since the days of the Greek and Roman democracies.

When I read Texas Gov. Rick Perry's recent and much-discussed op-ed about Obama's hostility to Israel, my assumption was that Perry didn't write its first draft, and may not have changed a comma in what someone else wrote on his behalf. Perry is nevertheless politically accountable for what it says to the same degree as if he had written it, and there's no reason to think his own views differ a whit from his ghost-writer's. (Indeed, the ghost-writer has failed in his job if his work varies from his principal's views.) Jen Rubin at the WaPo snarked that a "ghostwritten piece so far above [Perry's] current abilities highlights the concern" that "his own foreign policy views are rudimentary." I think that's harsh, but I take her point. Like all governors who run for president, Perry will have to struggle to establish foreign policy bona fides, and that can't be done solely through ghost-written op-eds.

But I was reminded of this topic — politicians and their ghost-writers — just now when I read this review of Jeffrey Sachs' new book, "The Price of Civilization," by someone of whom Ms. Rubin and I are both big fans: Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee. Having heard Mr. Ryan speak extemporaneously, I have no trouble believing that he, personally, penned lines like these:

In "The Price of Civilization," Mr. Sachs is asking the right questions. What is a life well lived? What should our government's role be in building a more virtuous society? What policies should it pursue to promote fulfilling lives for its citizens? If such questions direct us to the moral wisdom of our cultural traditions, they can indeed help to balance the excesses of capitalism and so help us to extend its benefits to all.

Yet Mr. Sachs's gospel of happiness draws not on the inspired tradition of the Founders but rather on the Utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham. In the 1780s, Bentham proposed that "happiness," which he equated with "pleasure," could be mathematically measured. It was not sufficient, he thought, for government to protect our rights if it was to vouchsafe our pursuit of happiness. Government must instead quantify "the greatest happiness of the greatest number" and set policies and goals accordingly. There was a science to satisfaction, Bentham claimed, and it was a puzzle that trained experts could solve.

Channeling Bentham, Mr. Sachs calls for the establishment of a national metrics for life satisfaction and sets a 10-year goal to "raise America's happiness." Although the specific measures are hazy, the steps are clear: For people to be happy, their government must increasingly shield them from the challenges of life. The good life is thus defined as one of ever-more pleasure at the expense of work.

But happiness in this world results not from avoiding challenges but from meeting them. Happiness is the recompense of real effort, whether intellectual or physical, and of earned success. It comes from achievement — from doing something of economic, artistic or emotional value. The satisfaction to be taken in producing valuable things brings with it a lasting sense of personal fulfillment. Mr. Sachs's design for paternalistic government will only impede the pursuit of happiness.

Read the whole thing. This man has a talent for communication, and a passion for the ideas he's communicating, but the delivery is simple, fair, and respectful to the views of the skeptical reader. I think that's the secret to Ryan's effectiveness — not just as an explainer, but as a persuader.

And I still wish he were running for POTUS. So this blog's official position continues to be:

Draft Paul Ryan.

Posted by Beldar at 09:28 PM in 2012 Election, Books, Budget/economics, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, September 26, 2011

Barone: Oh yes, there's still room for Daniels, Ryan, or Christie

In this perceptive essay on the state of the GOP presidential field, Michael Barone's concluding two paragraphs make a point that also explains why I haven't changed my "Draft Paul Ryan" sidebar:

Could another candidate give a better performance than Perry and deliver more sustainable responses than Romney? To judge from their performances in various public and private venues, the answer is yes for Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, and Chris Christie.

Each has taken himself out of the race. Each still has time to get in. Most voters are ready to reject Barack Obama. But not necessarily for one of those on the stage Thursday night.

I think that's about right. And if I had to guess, I'd guess that Speaker Boehner and other GOP leaders in Congress are continuing to quietly twist Paul Ryan's arm.

Posted by Beldar at 12:12 PM in 2012 Election, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | 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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ryan elaborates on decision not to run for POTUS

I credit House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) with complete sincerity in this video clip (hat-tip The Right Scoop):

But it's a long time before the first primary vote will be cast, and I'm a stubborn cuss, so I'm not quite ready yet to change out my sidebar endorsement.

Posted by Beldar at 09:33 AM in 2012 Election, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Yes, Perry flew "jets" in the U.S. Air Force

In my pedantic and thoroughly annoying way, I've left comments on a couple of other blogs correcting people who have referred to Texas Gov. Rick Perry as having "flown jets" during his service in the United States Air Force. For example, on a post by my friend Allahpundit at Hot Air, I left a trio of comments which read:

This issue should be addressed exactly as it should have been addressed with Bush: THE MILITARY DOES NOT LET STUPID PEOPLE FLY JETS. PERRY FLEW JETS. THEREFORE, PERRY IS NOT A STUPID PERSON.

wordwarp on August 29, 2011 at 7:57 PM

I’m quibbling, but the C-130s that Perry flew — while noble and essential aircraft! — aren't jets. They have propellers, and they go comparatively low, slow, and everywhere very reliably.

The military doesn't let unqualified people fly propeller aircraft either, so your point isn't affected....

There’s probably an essay to be written, or that’s already been written, or that should be written — maybe by Bill [Whittle]? — about the differences between different sorts of pilots who become politicians.

Dubya flew interceptors; his dad flew carrier-based dive [torpedo] bombers; and McCain also flew carrier-based strike aircraft. None of them did any dog-fighting (although Dubya’s mission would have been to use missiles to shoot down invading Soviet bombers). Nevertheless, my guess — as a fan but a non-pilot who hasn’t ever been in the military — is that they’d all still qualify for the rough, tough, and bluff fraternity of combat pilots.

The guys like Perry who flew (and still fly) the C-130s were, comparatively and metaphorically, flying truck drivers. No less essential, and indeed, a marvel and a necessary component of the long logistical train that our military forces require to accomplish their missions. But a lot less glamorous and sexy....

I have it on good authority[, however,] that this particular C-130 Hercules was not piloted by Rick Perry.

I was reminded of this point today by this post by ArthurK at Ace's, which compares and contrasts Perry's USAF work environment with President Obama's.

But looking at the photos in that post made me wonder if I'd erred in thinking only about Perry's duty as a C-130 pilot. And so I asked a very close friend who's a former USAF instructor pilot with lots of time in lots of different kinds of aircraft; and although my friend and I are a few years younger than Perry, my friend's brother is within a year of Perry's age and was also a USAF pilot, so I think their observations are likely to be well-informed.

My friend assures me that based on the pilot training Perry necessarily would have had in route to his ultimate assignment flying C-130 Hercules cargo planes, Perry "would absolutely have trained in the T-37 and T-38 before being assigned to the C-130 (which, for some real trivia, is a turboprop-powered aircraft, which some consider to qualify as flying a jet; certainly, even though there are propellers on the '130, they're turned by jet engines!)."

The T-37 is a relatively slow and uniquely maneuverable training jet in which, among other things, Perry would have been trained in spin entry and recovery techniques that were too dangerous to try to learn in faster, hotter jets. But the T-38 is the real deal — for all practical purposes, it's a supersonic jet fighter used for advanced pilot training before pilots get their post flight-school assignments. Indeed, rebranded and slightly modified as the F-5, these aircraft are still in use as a fighter in the air forces of many American allies, and T-38s are still flying for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and NASA. Perry's training in the T-38 would have included solo cross-country flights.

And such is the magic of the internet that a search engine query for "Rick Perry T-38" returns this image:

Rick Perry beside his Northrup T-38 Talon supersonic jet trainer

So: I'll no longer be correcting anyone who asserts that Perry "flew jets" in the USAF. He almost certainly did, and did so proficiently, as part of his training before he was assigned to C-130s. And setting aside the "jets versus non-jets" question: Flying big multi-engine aircraft presents a different but no less intimidating set of challenges than flying, say, a T-38 or an F-16. Perry can be justifiably proud of his service flying C-130s, and it is indeed fair to highlight that service as a credential now — not because he would need to pilot aircraft as POTUS, but because he'd need to command their pilots.


UPDATE (Wed Aug 31 @ 8:25 a.m.): Thanks for the link, Prof. Reynolds. There have been many good comments already, one of which has prompted me to make a correction above regarding the sort of plane Bush-41 flew in WW2. Others point out that C-130s are used as amazingly potent gun platforms in the AC-130 "Spooky" variant, and that C-130s also fly direct combat support roles. That's not to say that Gov. Perry in particular did either of those things, but other Air Force C-130 pilots have and continue to do so today.


UPDATE (Wed Aug 31 @ 4:45 p.m.): This post has continued to draw some well-informed and interesting comments. I commend them to your attention.

My pilot friend has now read this post and some of its comments, and he shared these further thoughts with me by email, beginning with this:

One [commenter] stated that the 707 is "not completely stable" because Tex Johnson was able to roll it. [But t]he 707 is quite stable, I can assure you from extensive personal experience (hey, it survived ME!). [After his duty as a T-37 instructor pilot, my friend spent a whole lot of time flying KC-135s, the tanker version of the Boeing 707.] The ability to do a barrel roll or other aerobatic maneuvers does not in any way imply instability in an aircraft, and any "stable" airliner can be rolled (and recovered safely? — that's a different matter). The plane in question was perfectly stable throughout the maneuver. And that IS a very impressive video — I have it on my iPod to show the occasional non-believer when the subject comes up.

On the nature of C-130s, the characteristics of those who end up flying them for the USAF, and what we might infer from the fact that Perry flew them rather than some other aircraft (italics & ellipsis my friend's, PG13-preserving asterisks mine):

I have heard pilots of C-17s, C-141s, C-5s, and even the Shuttle* referred to as "trash haulers," an appellation they embrace with pride, but never have I heard C-130 pilots called that. The Herc did a lot more than just carrying stuff from A to B, it was tasked with a lot of wild and dangerous maneuvering to carry out its mission. It was a true warfighter, at least in the sense that it tended to go where the bullets were flying, unlike most of the other trash haulers and even my beloved Stratotanker! (Sorry, I was channeling Gunny Ermey for a moment.) Anyway, we had the sense to stay outta them dangerous parts of the sky. Plus we were carrying frelling gasoline....

Also, assignments out of UPT weren't automatically based on your class ranking. The ranking got you preference, the top stick getting first choice of available assignments and so on down the list. So the highest-ranked grads tended to get the highly desirable fighter slots, but some preferred other aircraft. I was acquainted with a fellow whose father had flown B-52s, and that's what he wanted to do. High-ranked, fighter-qual, but he wanted a BUF and got it.

(And it's BUF, not BUFF. The cleaned-up version of "Big Ugly Fat Fellow" doesn't fit, as the B-52 is quite slender (try walking through one sometime and see if the word "fat" comes to mind). "Big Ugly F**ker" it is and always was, and its crews are rightly quite proud of that designation.)

There were some variations on the assignment selections, and the process may have been quite different during Vietnam, I don't know. Likewise during the recent and ongoing mid-east dustups.

During my brother's time [as a USAF pilot], he described the process as though the assignments were laid out on a table, and #1 was called and he went up and took his choice. Then #2 went up and chose from what was left, and so on until there was only one pilot and one assignment remaining. Dunno how accurate that is. [But my friend's older brother is almost exactly Perry's same age, whereas my friend and I were a few years younger.]

During my time, we all turned in a form (there's always a form) listing our first five choices of assignment. The oracles at Randolph AFB (ATC HQ) consulted their Ouija boards, Tarot cards, crystal balls and goat entrails, and handed down the assignments from on high, presumably weighted by class ranking and other factors (like notes from flight commanders — in my case, it was specified by that fellow that I was to be assigned to the T-37, which I was). Number One in my class wanted and expected an F-15 assignment, something he made clear from Day One. He got an F-16 (and did not take the news well, comporting himself quite unprofessionally in front of the class, wing brass, and wives and families present at Assignment Night), so that first-position-first-choice thing isn't universal.

Oh, and as I recall, the term First-Assignment Instructor Pilot, referred to by one or two of your commenters, wasn't usually pronounced "FAIP," but by the more common variation, "Goddamned FAIP." Similarly, even though I have lived in Albuquerque for 23 years now, I'm still a Damn Texan.

His footnote about the late, great Shuttle:

(*It was a friend of mine at the lovely and delightful Altus AFB, a C-141 instructor, who said to me (with pride in his voice), "Stands to reason the first reusable spacecraft would be a trash hauler!")

And a final post-script:

PS — I liked that photo of Perry on the T-38. Very unique. Doesn't look a thing like this one of me. For one thing, I knew better than to wear a flight cap on the flight line! Maybe he IS stupid after all.

Accompanying that post-script was this photo of my friend, circa 1981ish I think:

Beldar's friend & correspondent on the cockpit ladder of his Northrup T-38 Talon supersonic jet trainer
Note that my friend's helmet bears a noble insignia that pilot Perry's helmet emphatically did not. It was my memory of this photo of my friend, and of a very, very similar one of my friend's older brother, that prompted me to expect to find, somewhere on the internet, exactly the photo of Perry with his T-38 that I reprinted earlier in this post.


UPDATE (Wed Aug 31 @ 5:45 p.m.): Further, and much more detailed, analysis of the photo of pilot Perry and his T-38 appears here.

Posted by Beldar at 08:14 PM in 2012 Election, History, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (52) | TrackBack

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wait, but ... Really? You're sure there's an Article VI in the Constitution?

If, like me, you're a fan of Iowahawk's satires, then I also commend to you this fine one from my friend Dafydd ab Hugh at Big Lizards:

In Case I Ever Contract Mad-Cow Disease and Decide to Run for President...

Posted by Beldar at 09:00 PM in Humor, Politics (2011), Religion | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, August 22, 2011


I hope this and this are somehow wrong. But they're probably not.


UPDATE (Mon Aug 22 @ 8:00pm): From Ryan's statement today on his congressional campaign website:

I sincerely appreciate the support from those eager to chart a brighter future for the next generation. While humbled by the encouragement, I have not changed my mind, and therefore I am not seeking our party's nomination for President. I remain hopeful that our party will nominate a candidate committed to a pro-growth agenda of reform that restores the promise and prosperity of our exceptional nation. I remain grateful to those I serve in Southern Wisconsin for the unique opportunity to advance this effort in Congress.

Not quite Shermanesque, but close enough that in context, I'm persuaded that he means it.

Being stubborn, though, and as my own personal motion for reconsideration, I just sent $20.12 to Ryan's reelection warchest. 


UPDATE (Mon Aug 22 @ 8:35pm):  I'm reprinting here, without blockquoting them, some comments I've left on a post by Aaron Worthing at Patterico's:

I respect Chairman Ryan’s decision, although I’m very disappointed by it....

I’m really sad today, for my party and my country. I know Chairman Ryan has already devoted his life to public service, and that his family has already paid a price for that. And anyone with the burning passion in his or her belly to be POTUS has to be at least slightly insane; Ryan is the most sane politician I’ve ever seen, but I had hopes he might still respond to a draft, and I thought was sensed that coalescing this week.

I know Rick Perry’s record and I believe I know what he’s made of, and I believe he would be a fine president, but I’m not yet convinced he can overcome the anti-Texas/anti-Dubya bigotry in a national election in 2012. I’ll probably get aboard his campaign bandwagon anyway. But frankly, the kind of bigotry that the Dems will exploit and encourage if Perry gets the nomination is a lot harder to fight with facts and education than the “Mediscare” tactics they’d have used against Ryan. So I’m going to take the week to mumble and mutter and confuse my dog (who thinks I’m mad at her, which then makes me feel guilty, and appropriately so). She cuts me more slack than I’m due, so I beg that of the rest of you too today....

[Actually, who I owe the biggest apology to is my daughter Molly, for upon seeing the first report of Ryan's announcement this afternoon, I got distracted looking for confirmation, and I was therefore late picking her up. Molly cuts me more slack than I'm due, too. And yes, I see the irony in my being late to pick up my daughter while being disappointed that Paul Ryan won't subject his much younger children to the stresses of a POTUS campaign.]

I’m very sure that [Ryan's] decision wasn’t based on a failure to consider and weigh all the relevant factors. He’s been quite literally toe-to-toe with Obama, and I’m sure he can easily imagine himself in Obama’s shoes, doing a vastly better job for the country. And I know he’s confident in his own abilities and in his core philosophy. His ego is in tight control, but he does have one, and he’s not unaware of his relative strengths and weaknesses as a potential presidential candidate.

I’m reasonably sure that among the people who’ve been encouraging him to run, he received credible assurances of support, including serious promises of the sort of fund-raising that would have immediately made him competitive with Romney or Perry on that score.

I think large numbers of Republicans would have become enthusiastic supporters when they heard him speak in primary debates. By no means was this too late a date for him to join the race.

I’m sure he will do his very best as a non-candidate, but still as a leader of his party at the center of its most consequential current power (i.e., as head of the House Budget Committee) to affect the election. But that’s a distant runner-up to the influence he could have had as a candidate, even if he didn’t get the nomination, and not even in the same league as the influence he could have had as the GOP nominee.

And I’m still hopeful that whoever does get the nomination will look to him as a potential Veep choice.

Posted by Beldar at 03:38 PM in 2012 Election, Family, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

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

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ryan's cheerful spirit

An astute reader and sometimes-correspondent emailed me to say this of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), in response to my latest post urging Ryan to run for president:

He is equipped to persuade and inform. He is able to maintain a cheerful spirit as he argues his position.

That last is a point I've not made here adequately, to my embarrassment. I replied:

That cheerful spirit is an underappreciated key. I think it will become more obvious if he gets into the race, because I think he will start getting the kind of reaction from thirsty conservatives that will start a feedback loop.

Righteous competence and authenticity are a great foundation, and when you put the cheerful spirit above it — I just think it could be as genuinely transformative as Reagan in 1980.

Ryan comes across immediately, almost overwhelmingly, as superbly informed and relentlessly common-sensical. But there is a vein of quiet passion that peeks out, a static electric charge of patriotism and Reaganesque faith in America that sometimes attends his best public speaking. And it's not something he's reading from a teleprompter, or that any speechwriter has polished for him to recite. It's something that's thoroughly imbued in his character.

It's not flashy. It's certainly not contrived. But after four years of very contrived flash from 1600 Pennsylvania, I think America is likely to be receptive to Paul Ryan's cheerful spirit.


UPDATE (Mon Aug 22 @ 1:25pm): Mona Charen at NRO argues persuasively that being a "nice guy" is, indeed, Paul Ryan's "secret weapon."

Posted by Beldar at 07:17 AM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | 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

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Woulda, coulda, shoulda

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds points out that while he "understand[s] Democrats [now] wishing" that they’d nominated Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama in 2008, "her performance as Secretary of State has been something less than stellar."

I agree, but would add:

If the GOP had only nominated my guy in 2008 instead of McCain, he'd not only have beaten Obama and then restored financial sanity to the United States government, but when our intelligence agencies finally tracked down bin Laden, he'd have personally commanded the aircraft carrier from which bin Laden's corpse was fed to the fishes.

Fred Thompson as Admiral Josh Painter in 'The Hunt for Red October' (1990)

I wrote in 2007 that "I'm convinced that whether it's Hillary, Obama, or Edwards, the Dems are going to feel serious buyers' remorse on the day after their nominee is finally decided." I didn't predict, however, that they'd be still be feeling such serious remorse, or rather, even more serious remorse, in 2011.

As things are, this business has gotten out of control, and we'll be lucky to live through it.

Posted by Beldar at 11:45 PM in 2008 Election, Humor, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (15) | 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

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

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beldar disputes pollster Jan van Lohuizen's bizarre assertion that Gov. Rick Perry "never really has done all that well in Texas"

I neither know, nor know of, political pollster Jan van Lohuizen, but in this Q&A with Business Insider (hat-tip Daniel Halper at the Weekly Standard), the editors point out that Dr. van Louhizen's PhD in political science came from Rice University in 1978, and they assert that he "know[s] Texas as well as anyone." And they point out that he's served as "George W. Bush's pollster in both of his presidential election campaigns," and that Dr. van Louhizen "is highly regarded by political professionals in both parties." I have no reason to doubt any of that.

But they then quote Dr. van Lohuizen as saying this about the potential presidential prospects of Texas Gov. Rick Perry:

... I don’t know if [Perry] will run but my sense of it is that he will — quite a few of the issues he pushed in the legislative session and in the follow-up special session were clearly designed to seed a run for President.

His assets are that he is a good communicator, appeals to tea party types, and he can point to the strength of the Texas economy. On the liabilities side, however, he did not get the things he introduced for that purpose, and the criticism of the balanced budget he passed is getting rougher and rougher: it is basically as flimsy as Gerry [sic ] Brown’s balanced budget. Add to that that he never really has done all that well in Texas. He got a 2nd full term with less than 40% of the vote in a 4 way race, and barely avoided a runoff in his own primary against a weakened Senator and an unknown.

Add as well that some of the issues he is associated with are deeply problematic to conservatives, including his record on property rights, increasing taxes, ‘pay to play’ fundraising and any amount of other raw material for opposition researchers that 10 years as Governor generates.

I agree in part with the first paragraph, and I won't quibble with parts of the second; but I think the end of the second paragraph and the entire third paragraph are both badly misleading — indeed, contrary to objective reality.


I don't have a strong sense of whether Gov. Perry will or won't run, and I have utterly no inside information either way. As my sidebar suggests, I've got another current non-candidate I'd like to see drafted for the GOP nomination; and I'm not one of those trying to drum up support for a Perry candidacy, at least not right now. But I've voted for Gov. Perry many times for many different offices over the last twenty years, and I can easily imagine myself doing so if he were part of a ticket running against Obama.

Nevertheless, the hot-button issues from the last Texas legislature (including special session(s)) to which Dr. van Lohuizen refers — voter ID, sanctuary cities, border security — are controversial at both the state and federal levels anyway. It would be a very dim Republican governor anywhere, but especially along the Mexican border, who wasn't keenly focused on those issues, regardless of whether he or she has aspirations for higher office.

So where Dr. van Lohuizen sees smoke signals, I see smoke puffs, frankly. I don't think Perry's interaction with the last Legislature furnishes very persuasive evidence that Perry was, or is, planning to run for POTUS. But that's a matter of interpretation, not observation; if Dr. van Lohuizen reaches the opposite conclusion from mine, that doesn't trouble me at all.

As for matters fiscal: Although we're comparatively better off than most other states,Texas still needs to squeeze value out of every penny, and like every other state government, ours has been trying to find creative ways to avoid raising taxes. There are reasonable arguments to be made that our proposed solutions here in Texas include some one-offs and some gimmicks; there's room for debate about our budget, and there's been quite a bit of it.

But there's not a rational soul in the universe who'd trade Texas' economic and fiscal situation for California's. Whatever details may underlie Dr. van Lohuizen's conclusion, to the extent he's trying to make a comparison between California and Texas, or between Jerry Brown and Rick Perry, he's simply full of bull. I have a hard time imagining two more vividly contrasting politicians, in fact, than Brown and Perry, both on matters of style and of substance.


Much, much more perplexing and troubling to me is Dr. van Lohuizen's assertion that Perry "never really has done all that well in Texas."

Rick Perry first won office as a Texas state representative (as a Democrat). After making a splash as a legislator and changing to the GOP, he won election over a popular incumbent Democrat, Jim Hightower, to become Texas Commissioner of Agriculture in 1990. He was reelected with 61% of the vote in 1994. Perry followed the legendary Bob Bullock to become Texas Lieutenant Governor in 1998 in a hard-fought race against Dem John Sharp, who'd previously won state-wide election as Texas Comptroller. By 1998, of course, it was already widely expected that then-Gov. George W. Bush would run for president in 2000, so those who elected Perry to the Lieutenant Governorship in 1998 certainly weren't surprised when Perry succeeded Dubya as Governor at year-end 2000.

Dr. van Lohuizen's assertion simply ignores the fact that Perry then won reelection in his own right in 2002 with 58% of the vote — a blowout.

Dr. van Lohuizen is correct that Perry's re-election margin in 2006, in a four-way general election field, wasn't nearly so impressive. It was a very odd election for a number of reasons besides the size of the field.

But I simply have no clue what Dr. van Lohuizen was talking about when he described Texas' senior sitting U.S. Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, as "a weakened senator" before or during the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary. What are we supposed to think from that — that she was like Idaho's Larry Craig, barely hanging onto any office anywhere? That's utter nonsense that's insulting to Sen. Hutchison and to the 450,000+ Texans who voted for her in the 2010 primary, but it also undervalues the opinions of the 759,000+ Texans (51%) who voted for Perry.

To the contrary, Sen. Hutchison wasn't "weakened," but had instead long telegraphed her intention to leave the Senate to run for the Texas governorship. She had powerful, deep, and long-standing connections in the Texas GOP's old guard (going back to the John Tower/G.H.W. Bush days of the 1960s and 1970s Texas GOP). She had (and has) a talented staff and an experienced and successful campaign team. And she had tons of campaign money and volunteers. In sum, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was a formidable candidate whom Rick Perry nevertheless beat convincingly and without a runoff.

And yes, Sen. Hutchison's campaign had years of raw material about Perry from which to do opposition research, and she had all the resources and incentives anyone could want in order to exploit to the hilt any Perry missteps from days past. The exact same stuff that Dr. van Lohuizen cryptically references in the third of the paragraphs I've quoted — the supposed "issues [Perry] is associated with [which] are deeply problematic to conservatives" — absolutely failed to catch on in Sen. Hutchison's bare-knuckled attacks on Perry during the 2010 GOP primary. I'm unaware of any reason to think that those same attacks would catch on when made by, say, Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty or Michelle Bachman — and Dr. van Lohuizen doesn't give us any such reason.

Indeed, Dr. van Lohuizen notes, accurately, that Perry "appeals to tea party types," but he fails to mention that the third candidate who ran against both Perry and Hutchison in the 2010 GOP primary — Debra Medina, whom Dr. van Lohuizen fairly describes as an "unknown" — was a self-proclaimed Tea Partier who briefly surged based on pure pro-Tea Party movement/anti-incumbency sentiment. Both Perry and Hutchison had strong potential vulnerabilities to such a candidacy; sitting GOP politicians in many other states lost their primaries to just such candidates.

But Perry adeptly seized the Tea Party movement's themes, parried (no pun intended) the anti-incumbency attacks, and then rode a Tea Party/constitutional conservative/anti-Obama surge of 2.7 million votes into a crushing 55% to 42% general election victory over popular Houston ex-mayor (and former Clinton Deputy Secretary of Energy and Texas Democratic Chairman) Bill White — easily the strongest and best financed Democratic gubernatorial candidate since Dubya whipped incumbent Ann Richards in 1994.

Running and winning overwhelmingly on an anti-incumbency, anti-government theme — when you've been part of government for almost three decades yourself — is a fairly deft piece of political footwork, in my humble opinion.

I'm pretty sure, in fact, that Rick Perry has won every election he's ever run in. He's definitely won every state-wide race for public office he's ever run in Texas. And he's now served as Texas' chief executive longer than anyone else in a history that dates back to 1836.

How a PhD in political science can interpret that as "never really [doing] all that well in Texas," I simply cannot fathom, and I therefore respectfully dissent. Now, it's true that Gov. Perry hasn't yet been quite as successful as his immediate predecessor was at parlaying the Texas governorship into higher national officer. And to win higher office, Perry would once again have to overcome his deservedly lingering shame from having been Texas manager for Al Gore's aborted 1988 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. But we've mostly forgiven him for that here already, and Ronald Reagan was a converted Dem who saw the light. So: short of running and winning the presidency, just how much more Texas history would Rick Perry have to write to satisfy Dr. van Lohuizen that Perry's managed to make something of himself on the Texas political scene?


UPDATE (Sat Jul 16 @ 2am): Hilary Hylton has a nicely detailed and perceptive examination of Perry's history with Gore. The Perry campaign should be absolutely thrilled with this essay, since it ends up not only "pulling the tooth" before it could be used to bite Perry, but indeed it presents a compelling tale of Perry's conversion to the GOP as part of a contemporaneous and much larger shift to the GOP throughout Texas.

Posted by Beldar at 12:57 AM in 2012 Election, Politics (2011), Politics (Texas), Texas | Permalink | Comments (4) | 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

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beldar scoffs at Ackerman's notion of a magical priesthood of special government lawyers

His bio page at Yale tells us that Bruce Ackerman is the "Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale, and the author of fifteen books that have had a broad influence in political philosophy, constitutional law, and public policy." Prof. Ackerman has credentials out the wazoo, but there seems to be something very wrong with his basic understanding of government, lawyers, and government lawyers. As part of an NYT op-ed decrying Pres. Obama's defiance of the War Powers Resolution, and in particular on Obama's refusal to accept and follow the advice of the Office of Legal counsel with respect thereto, Prof. Ackerman wrote this:

If the precedent Mr. Obama has created is allowed to stand, future presidents who do not like what the Justice Department is telling them could simply cite the example of Mr. Obama’s war in Libya and instruct the White House counsel to organize a supportive “coalition of the willing” made up of the administration’s top lawyers. Even if just one or two agreed, this would be enough to push ahead and claim that the law was on the president’s side.

The premise of that last sentence is spectacularly wrong.

Prof. Ackerman seems to see the government lawyers advising the President as some sort of official priesthood whose special blessings are essential prerequisites to the legitimate exercise of presidential power under the Constitution. And if the wrong priests are being relied upon, Prof. Ackerman seems to believe that this President's actions, and those of future Presidents, may become some sort of legal heresy. Ackerman scolds: "Mr. Obama is creating a decisive and dangerous precedent for the next commander in chief who is unlikely to have the Harvard Law Review on his résumé" — as if that credential has some constitutional significance.

But that's just silly. Whether they're from the Office of Legal Counsel or the Department of Defense any other unit of government, those lawyers are no more than advisers. Neither Barack Obama nor any other POTUS needs even one lawyer to bless what he's done or opine that it's okay — and that doesn't vary a whit based on whether the POTUS is or isn't also a lawyer. It's not that something becomes legal just because the POTUS says so. But the decision of the POTUS is the decision of the executive branch because the Constitution puts the POTUS at the head of that coordinate branch of government — whether the POTUS is backed up by 500 lawyers, one lawyer, or no lawyers at all.

If Ackerman can't grasp and apply the distinction between counselor and principal, he shouldn't be teaching law school — not even at Yale. As another Yale law grad with whom I'm familiar wrote a few days ago:

The President gets to make these calls [as to which lawyers, if any, he chooses to rely upon]. Of course, when the President makes this sort of a call, in a war that never had any sort of Congressional approval, it’s pretty risky — or, if you prefer, “gutsy” — but that choice is the President’s to make, and the political risks are his to run.

Exactly. Obama's taken the position that his administration isn't violating the War Powers Resolution — not because it's an unconstitutional infringement on the POTUS' constitutional responsibilities and powers as commander in chief, but because our military forces supposedly aren't involved in "hostilities." The voters who consider his reelection bid can and should hold him accountable for that ridiculous position (and the overweening vanity which permits him to insist upon it), regardless of whether that position was or wasn't blessed by the particular number and brand of orthodox legal priests upon whom Ackerman thinks all presidents should rely.

Posted by Beldar at 09:13 PM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (3) | 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

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Beldar quibbles with Krauthammer over Perry and the Texas economy

Dr. Charles Krauthammer said tonight on Fox News, at the tail-end of his comments about the possibility that Texas governor Rick Perry might enter the GOP presidential race for 2012:

I would just add, there's one factor in the Texas story which can't be overlooked: It's got a lot of oil, it's an oil state. And oil has done rather well. Other states don't have that much.

We all occasionally make trite remarks, and Dr. Krauthammer's tendancy to do so is far, far lower than my own. Certainly anyone who's trying to evaluate Texas' relative success compared to some other states, both currently or historically, ought to factor in natural resources.

But the price of oil has varied fairly dramatically over the past three years. Texas is far behind Alaska in crude oil production, and failed-state California is close behind Texas in the number three position.

While there have been new and exciting energy discoveries in Texas in the last few years that have contributed to the statewide economy and have led to local booms in exploration and drilling, most of the value of the energy business to the Texas economy is based now on what's above the ground — people, expertise, and technology — rather than below it.

With due respect to Dr. Krauthammer, then, oil is a factor in Texas' economy and in particular its creation of new jobs — but it's not the most important factor, and it's much less of a factor now than it was 30 years ago.

When he is at his best, Gov. Perry — who is not a humble man by nature — is appropriately humble about his personal role in Texas' relative economic success during these hard times. Rick Perry didn't create that prosperity. No state governor has such power, and certainly not Texas' governor. No American president has such power over the country, either.

Rather, Perry has continued a long tradition that goes back to the days of Stephen F. Austin, when Texas was still part of Mexico. Texans expect government to perform some core functions competently, and then otherwise to get the hell out of their way.

By and large, Gov. Perry has stayed the hell out of the way, just as have his predecessors going back a long, long way. Texas has been a right-to-work state, for example, as long as that term has had meaning. Texas has never had a state income tax, and proposing one has been the political equivalent here of swallowing a dose of cyanide the size of a football. And people still come to Texas because it doesn't matter much who their daddies and mommies were; rather, what matters is what they will accomplish for themselves when they get here and are given a chance.

Holding fast to first principles is easier when you don't have to swim upstream, and in context, it's no knock on Gov. Perry to point out that he hasn't ever had to. And whether he remains a speculative candidate or a more active one, he'd be truthful, and smart in the long run, to point that out himself — aggressively, and indeed reflexively every time someone gives him more credit than due for the Texas economy. Rick Perry is due some considerable credit, mind you, for not screwing up — but he'll earn much more by placing the lion's share of the credit where it's due, which is not on himself or any government official, but on the free market and its Texas participants whom he has had the privilege of representing as a public servant.

Posted by Beldar at 06:31 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Energy, Politics (2011), Politics (Texas) | Permalink | Comments (3) | 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

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Beldar on Emanuel on Obama on Israel's future

If you're Barack Obama, then by the time you've run and won a presidential election campaign, you know better than to defend your disastrous Middle East policies with the old cliché, "Some of my best friends are Jewish!"

Instead, you get your loyal vassal and bannerman — until recently your chief of staff, now returned to your and his hometown cesspool of politics, Chicago — to declare, "Hey, I'm a Jew, and Barack Obama's one of my best friends!"

That's the entire explanation for, and most of what you need to know about, Rahm Emanuel's WaPo op-ed this week. Emanuel would have had the same concluding paragraph no matter what:

As an American and a Jew, however, I am grateful that this president has not given up trying to find a path that would bring the parties back to the negotiating table. I applaud his continued effort to work on and invest himself in this increasingly vexing and dangerous conflict. All who care about a safe and secure Jewish state of Israel should as well.

Emanuel has seen Obama up close, he assures us, and then lists several Obama decisions that can be spun as pro-Israel. Trust me, Emanuel is saying, Obama's really not as anti-Israel as his history and his words and his deeds all indicate.

Uh-huh. But what of the contrary evidence, the calculated undercutting of Israel's negotiating position in Obama's May 19th speech to the State Department?

Emanuel simply pretends that that speech was pro-Israel. 

He (or the editorial staff of the WaPo) helpfully included a link to the May 19th speech. And Emanuel quotes what he calls the "one sentence" of Obama's that has "received the most attention," viz — "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." He insists that prior American presidents and Israeli governments have dealt with the notion of swapping land for peace, and that Obama wasn't tilting American foreign policy away from Israel, so this is all much ado about nothing.

But he completely ignores what Obama said immediately after that controversial sentence (emphasis mine):

These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

The policy that Obama announced on May 19th was "Borders first, Jerusalem/right of return later." No other interpretation of Obama's words is possible. And no American president had ever before proposed that.

In responding to Emanuel's op-ed, was Roger L. Simon hyperbolic in this comparison?

[W]hen we are reading Emanuel’s piece, we are doing more than running our eyes rapidly down another dull oped. We are taking a time trip back into the 1930s when Jews made all kinds of rationalizations for all kinds of behavior. We all know the results of that.

Perhaps so. Obama's not rounding up Jewish families and putting them on trains to death camps, so the behavior that Emanuel is rationalizing isn't as noxious as the Nazi's.

But then again, Mr. Simon's implied (and more apt) comparison is not Obama & Emanuel to the Nazis, but Obama & Emanuel to the American leaders (including American Jews) of the 1930s and 1940s — leaders who took a "hands off"/"It's their problem" attitude over what Germany was doing to its Jews for years before war broke out. I don't think Godwin's Law applies when one's talking about the consequences of the actual Holocaust, including the origins of and the continued need for the State of Israel.

I'm willing to grant that Emanuel is a smart guy. How else (*cough*cough*) could he have turned a degree in ballet from Sarah Lawrence College, with no experience in business or finance, into a post-Clinton investment banking job at a branch office of Wasserstein Perella which netted him more than $18 million in just over two years? And I'm in no position to pass any judgment as to whether Emanuel is compromising his faith or his family or his heritage in his unswerving and, apparently, entirely uncritical support of Barack Obama.

But I'm very, very sure that Barack Obama is trying to turn America away from its best ally in the Middle East. And when someone like Rahm Emanuel tries to deny that, or distract attention from it, by saying, "Trust me, I'm a Jew" — I'm not impressed by that argument. I don't trust Rahm Emanuel, nor his liege-lord either.

Posted by Beldar at 04:22 PM in Foreign Policy, History, Obama, Politics (2011), Religion | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Ryan on American exceptionalism

Referring to Paul Ryan's detailed and thoughtful speech on Thursday to the Alexander Hamilton Society — in which Ryan used historical parallels to reaffirm the critical importance of American exceptionalism in the modern world — the esteemed Michael Barone asks (rhetorically but pointedly):

By the way, how often do House Budget Committee chairmen give speeches about foreign policy?

(Hat-tip Instapundit.)

Posted by Beldar at 03:01 PM in 2012 Election, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (3) | 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

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

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

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

Beldar's suggested question for the next GOP presidential debate

Q: In 2008, Barack Obama publicly broke his repeated promises to abide by campaign finance limits that would have accompanied federal financing of his general election campaign.

Instead, Obama raised a substantial multiple of the sums John McCain received — many hundreds of millions of dollars more than McCain had available to spend — when McCain honored his own promise to abide by the limits and restricted himself to federal general election funding.

May I have a show of hands, please: Raise your hand if you will pledge tonight that if you are the GOP nominee in 2012, you will not repeat McCain's mistake of relying on Obama's promises, and that you will instead do your best to legally raise money sufficient to keep your campaign competitive with the $1 billion which most are estimating that the Obama 2012 reelection campaign will raise and spend?


I'm duly impressed that Mitt Romney, this early, can raise more than $10 million in a day. But $10 million is going to be a spit in the lake in 2012. I don't want another nominee who is tricked into tying one of his own hands behind his back before going in to slug it out with an unhindered opponent.

Posted by Beldar at 12:12 AM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack