Ramesh Ponnuru is giving House Republicans who voted for the Ryan Budget good advice on withstanding the barrage of negative attacks that are sure to come next year. Some key points,
1. Republicans need to do their homework and master the arguments on the Ryan Budget's Medicare reforms. They need to watch tapes of Paul Ryan at town hall meetings or hold long talks (in groups if necessary) with Yuval Levin and James Capretta. They need to anticipate the left's attacks and have pithy responses. They should not be like Senator Mitch McConnell. When McConnell was asked how Ryan's premium support plan was different from a voucher, McConnell responded "He [Paul Ryan] says it is different." McConnell isn't up for reelection until 2014 and he managed to be comfortably reelected in the horrible (for Republicans) year of 2008. He can afford to give vague, lazy, responses. If you are a House Republican and you think you can get away with such responses, then don't bother campaigning. Stay home and watch cartoons (I recommend Warner Bros. from the 1930s and 1940s.) The result will be the same.
2. They need to make the Medicare fight a choice rather than a referendum on the Republican plan. As Ponnuru writes, "If your reform plan is weighed against an impossible dream of keeping Medicare exactly as it is regardless of affordability, voters are going to prefer the impossible dream. If it's compared to the real alternative, you just might make it." The good news is that the Democrats have already cut Medicare for current seniors by hundreds of billions and the President has proposed a further trillion dollars of cuts for current seniors. And these are only the beginning. These cuts will take the form of making it harder to see providers (because providers will drop Medicare patients due to lower reimbursement rates) and denials of service. IPAB should be the four favorite letters of every House Republican.
3. There is no substitute for sweat. House Republicans need to crisscross their districts at town hall meetings and every other venue explaining their Medicare proposals. Starting today. Every senior should have heard, (face-to-face from their congressman hopefully) that a) Obama and the Democrats had already cut their Medicare and were planning to cut it even more and b) the Republican Medicare plan leaves Medicare unchanged for the currently elderly and near elderly. There is no hiding from this issue and it will be high salience. Any House Republican who gets caught flat footed or lets their constituents first learn about the Republican Medicare plan from liberal attacks is too lazy and/or stupid and/or shallow to be in Congress. You have a year to get ahead of this. That doesn't guarantee survival, but it gives you a chance.
I would add,
4. The Republicans need a better Medicare policy. House Republicans should pray that the eventual Republican presidential nominee comes up with a more defensible plan and does a good job explaining it. They should then affiliate themselves with that plan.
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"The 'litmus test' for judicial appointments established by the Reagan Administration concentrated on a potential appointee's willingness to overrule Roe." (Morton Horowitz, Harvard Law Review, 1993)
Really? Of the five justices sent to the Supreme Court by Reagan and George H.W. Bush, three voted to sustain Roe. Would any of the people put on the Court by Clinton or Obama vote to overturn it? I have my doubts. Who has a litmus test?
The progressive theories which shattered America's academic dominance rejected the millennia-old wisdom that knowledge stimulates understanding, which reciprocally enables the absorption of further knowledge and stimulates further understanding. The paradigm of progressive education is not the ethical transmission of accumulated knowledge from one generation to the next, but an abstract and subjective exercise in revolutionizing how students learn and think in a politically correct environment unpolluted by institutional trivia and socio-historic debris.
As several media sources have noted by now, Barney Frank has admitted that he helped his boyfriend get a job at Fannie Mae, the federally backed mortgage giant, which Frank, as a Congressman, would help to regulate. A decade later, Frank would argue against the Republicans who were worried that Fannie Mae and its sister organization were making too many risky mortgates. Frank suggested that it was prudent to roll the dice, and not crack down on risky mortgages.
Frank complans that:
"If it is (a conflict of interest), then much of Washington is involved (in conflicts)," Frank told the Herald last night. "It is a common thing in Washington for members of Congress to have spouses work for the federal government. There is no rule against it at all.
There is, of course a difference between having a family member or close friend who works somewhere in the federal government, and getting an organization over whom one has power to hire a friend. As the Boston Globe notes, at the time Frank called Fannie Mae and asked them to hire his boyfriend, he was in a position directly to help or harm Fannie Mae.
But it can be difficult to determine who is, and who is not, in a position of influence. And Frank's larger point is correct. Nowadays, it seems that most of our important politicians have spouses and other close relatives who are in the same business, or who stand to benefit from their actions. That was always the case to a certain degree--just look a the Kennedys and Fitzgeralds in Massachusetts, among other cases. But the rise of the two career couple has drawn the circle tighter.
That being the case, I suggest we regulate such nepotism (and its close associated) much more heavily. Given the rise of the two-career couple, such regulation may very well reduce the importance of Washington, DC in American life, by making it a harder city for political couples to live in. It just might return some political influence from the ceter to the periphery, rendering our government closer to the people. Even if it won't make much of a difference in that regard, it would be good for the rule of law, by reducing the importance of special connections among parts of government.
From The New York Times:
House Republicans will seek to reset the economic-policy debate Thursday, offering a broad plan to boost jobs and growth by easing tax and regulatory burdens.
The plan includes a 25% top tax rate on corporations and individuals, compared with the current 35%, as well as higher domestic-energy production, new curbs on government regulations and overhauls of U.S. patent and visa systems to help entrepreneurs and high-tech firms.
Reflecting the GOP consensus that tax increases won't be a part of any eventual budget deal this year, the plan calls for "significant spending cuts" to rein in government deficits.
34 years ago today, in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars hit the silver screen.
Just for perspective, I was 3 months old.
Quote of the Day
You may have heard it before, but it bears repeating.
The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent Terrorist threats and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated", or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since "The Blitz" in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.
The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards." They don't have any other levels. This is the Reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.
The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.
Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."
The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."
Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.
The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.
Australia , meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be right, Mate." Two more escalation levels remain: "Crikey! I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!" and "The Barbie is canceled." So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.
- John Cleese, British writer, actor and tall person
1. People are panicking for the wrong reasons. The public retreat from the Republicans came before the Ryan budget dominated the political debate and the most recent Mediscare. As Henry Olsen pointed out, the Republicans did quite badly in the Wisconsin judicial election that was won by the right-of-center David Prosser (the judicial election happened the same week that Ryan rolled out his budget, but it wasn't an issue in that election.). Prosser only won because he did unusually well among African Americans (compared to Scott Walker in last November's election), and African American turnout was low for the election. The fact that it was a formally nonpartisan election probably helped Prosser because he was less associated with the toxic Republican brand. Republican candidates won't have that option in 2012, and Obama being on the ballot should boost the African American turnout. The most ominous sign from Wisconsin and New York is the shrinking Republican margins among white voters. Republicans won white voters by huge margins in 2010, but those margins have receded - and it isn't just Mediscare. There are long-term problems of coalition formation here.
2. Note to future Republican candidates: don't let the Democrats of the hook. Elections need to be choices between different approaches, not referendums on the Republican approach. Don't complain that the Democrats don't have a plan. This is a case where nothing beats something. The Democrats are the party that has already cut Medicare by hundreds of billions for current seniors. The President has proposed a further cut of over a trillion dollars in Medicare to current seniors to be enforced by a bureaucrats. And the deficit isn't sustainable even with those cuts The Democrats are the party of centralized benefit cuts, middle-class tax increases, and fewer jobs.
4. There is a chance for the Republicans to have a really stupid internal debate about where we go from here. One lousy argument will be to retreat to Newt Gingrich nonsense about cutting waste and promising a "national conversation" as a debt crisis comes ever closer. Another (better, but still misguided) approach will be to turn the Ryan budget into some kind of Republican orthodoxy. I want to see Republican politicians and candidates offer their own policies on entitlements and health care policy and those who do so should be welcomed if they pass two basic tests. First, the policies should realistically address our fiscal problems. Second, the policies should have some hope of competing for public support (this last is more subjective of course.) Newt Gingrich's waste cutting strategy and Gary Johnson's proposal to immediately cut Medicare by over 40% and block grant the program each fail in a different way.
5. Someone needs to tell Newt Gingrich that we are already having a national conversation on entitlements. This is what such a conversation looks like. This is, more or less, what such a conversation was always going to look like. Plans are going to be articulated and compete in the political marketplace. Conservatives should be open to constructive criticism of Ryan's plans, but should not despair. The first step is the arduous and thankless task of public education. I'm sure glad Paul Ryan is still out there fighting. We need more Paul Ryans (with slightly different plans.)
6. Okay, maybe a little despair is in order. I don't think that any of the current Republican presidential candidates are going to be much help in winning the public argument on entitlement reform. I hope I'm wrong, but the biggest cause for Republican concern has little to do with the incompetence of the New York Republican Party. But even if I'm right, politics won't stop in November 2012. The Democrats didn't just start fighting for Obamacare in January of 2009. It was a long march. Good for them. We should have equal persistence. Or as Reihan Salam wrote:
The whole brouhaha is a reminder of the need for the right to think long-term. The health reform debate played out as it did because social policy scholars like Jacob Hacker thought deeply about the defeat of Clinton's Health Security proposal and they designed a new approach designed to survive the rough-and-tumble of the political process. To win these fights, policymakers need a half-a-loaf strategy, i.e., fallback options for when they run into resistance. The defeat of the public option was, for health policy advocates on the left, a relatively minor loss, as the likely trajectory of health costs in a tightly centralized system built around subsidizing coverage with a high actuarial value all but guarantees the need for aggressive cost containment measures in the future. Win now, or win later
7. The alternative is for the American center-right to become like the Greek center-right and offer policies that nibble around the edges of the economy's problems and hope to have a share of power until the smash comes. Our smash would end up looking different from Greece's for lots of reasons (this is probably an optimistic scenario), but the alternative to some kind of serious reformism is going to be some kind of ugly.
8. Dave Weigel has the rundown on the role of Republican incompetence and infighting in losing NY-26.
And it'll get better from there. (I'll post the whole thing after it's all over.)The international diplomacy of climate change is the most implausible and unpromising initiative since the disarmament talks of the 1930s, and for many of the same reasons. . . the Kyoto Protocol and its progeny are the climate diplomacy equivalent of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 that promised to end war (a treaty that is still on the books, by the way), and finally, future historians are going to look back on this whole period as the climate policy equivalent of wage and price controls to fight inflation in the 1970s.
The politics of the Ryan roll-out did not boost my confidence in the possibility of its success. Talk about the importance of "beginning a debate" is really an invitation to demagoguery, as was the case in the 26th. Churchill said that in wartime truth needed a bodyguard of lies. In this war the other side had the lies, while Ryan had a kind of inconvenient truth. Simply unveiling a controversial budget plan and expecting reasonable debate to ensue is an act of self-immolation.
- Justin Paulette, May 25, 2011
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Continuing my video trend today, here's the Israeli Prime Minister on sean Hannity's show earlier today. Excellent commentary from Netanyahu.
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Oh those Canadians.
Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, are raising their third child, Storm, to be free of societal norms regarding gender. Is Storm male or female? The parents won't say, so no one knows except Storm's older brothers, Jazz and Kio, as well as a close family friend and two midwives who helped deliver the baby.
Luck Storm, Jazz and Kio to have life-partner parents who aren't constrained by silly "social norm" ... like biology. Practitioners of that pseudo-science called psychology "saw several advantages to the atypical scenario, including true self-determination for Storm."
A pro-family group summed up the situation rather succinctly by noting: "The vast majority of people have enough common sense to recognize that this is lunacy."
The French have made a bid to replace their fallen countryman at the IMF with another of their own. Nothing to see here, according to the French, just move right along.
While many in the EU (particularly France) reflect on this international incident as merely an opportunity to criticize the American justice system, some American writers are contemplating the event as a social commentary on the state of modern Europe. According to Ross Douthat at the NY Times:
In the hands of the right screenwriter, Strauss-Kahn's arrest could be the central thread in one of those sprawling, complex, kaleidoscope-of-globalization movies that aspire to Oscar glory. Think "Traffic" or "Syriana," "Crash" or "Babel": the kind of movie that leapfrogs around the planet, shifting from place to place and perspective to perspective in an effort to bring an entire Big Issue into focus.
Instead of the war on drugs or race relations in Los Angeles, though, the subject of this movie would be the potential collapse of the European Union.
no creative mind could have dreamed up an allegation better calculated to vindicate the perception that today's Eurocrats are just a version of the old European aristocracy -- exercising droit du seigneur in high-priced hotel rooms while they wait to catch a first-class flight to Paris.
Pawlenty has announced - a day ahead of schedule - that he's in the race for the presidency. His announcement video takes direct aim at Obama, declaring that he - unlike Obama - will tell you the truth and face America's hard decisions with courage. It's effective. His story is compelling. And with Daniel's departure, he's the conservative heir. Pawlenty is the man to watch.
Daniels is out. I guess I'm for Pawlenty (very provisionally.) Mostly I'm going to be watching a lot of Twilight Zone reruns.
USA Today reports on the state of our economic recovery as compared to other recessions in our nation's history. As the chart below displays (by showing recovery rates 22 months after each recession formally ended), this "recovery" is the worst in history.
Several factors, no doubt, contribute to our present misfortune. But one cannot ignore Obama's egregious and unparalleled stimulus spending. Government spending is pretty much inversely proportional to job growth. This is partly because a great deal of stimulus cash was funneled to Democratic constituencies or immediately circulated into government coffers to pay off state debts, rather than being applied to private contracts which might have "stimulated" the economy. However, the overarching explanation is that Keynesian economics is bunk and uncontrolled government spending ruins economies.
While true believers will argue ad infinitum that external factor explains Obamanomic's failure to launch, the experiment cannot be said to have failed for lack of trying. Obama has spent with reckless abandon and promised to keep the tap flowing. It's hard to imagine anyone seriously arguing that we should (or could) have spent more money than we have. And the result it evident.
Albert Einstein's famous quote seems to apply. "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." An Obama victory in 2012 would reveal either that American's have no knowledge of the facts or that they meet the criteria of Einstein's definition.
Herman Cain confuses the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but his impressive announcement speech ends with one of the most powerful lines of political oratory in recent years. He makes congruent the squared circle of bureaucracy and civil rights that was the original plague of a bureaucratic state enforcing civil rights (Sunstein makes this clear, btw). Among Republicans only he could have delivered it so effectively. He can't get the nomination, but he diminishes Republican confidence in the rest of field by speaking so pointedly.
But Cain's mistake is far overshadowed by Obama's use of the Declaration to promote his containment of Israel. Obama appears to assume that Palestinians recognize the equal natural rights of humanity. Moreover, the equality of all human beings by virtue of their natural rights means that not all cultures are created equal. Which side in the Middle East most resembles the "merciless Indian savages" denounced in the Declaration? Herman Cain would not make this mistake, however diligently Obama and the State Department persist in making it.
For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar. Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire. Our people fought a painful Civil War that extended freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved. And I would not be standing here today unless past generations turned to the moral force of nonviolence as a way to perfect our union -- organizing, marching, protesting peacefully together to make real those words that declared our nation: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa -- words which tell us that repression will fail, and that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights.
Earlier he had oddly stated: "The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation." But Israel is no dream; it exists. If its land is to be equated with "permanent occupation," then he is saying Israel is illegitimate. (Similar arguments are raised in the U.S. about the illegitimacy of European settlers.) Obama's speech does not even rise to the amorality of moral equivalence.
As if there wasn't enough division in the world, the universe has now been exposed as lending to the problem. According to NASA: Dark Energy Is Driving Universe Apart.
A five-year survey of 200,000 galaxies, stretching back seven billion years in cosmic time, has led to one of the best independent confirmations that dark energy is driving our universe apart at accelerating speeds.
It's a bad day for gravity, which is now repulsive rather than attractive at great distances, and a good day for dark energy, which comprises 96% of the universe along with dark matter (reserving a mere 4% for normal matter - including everything made of atoms).
Worse yet, this inequality on the part of the universe's dark components is only getting worse. Environmentalists should take heed:
Observations by astronomers over the last 15 years have produced one of the most startling discoveries in physical science; the expansion of the universe, triggered by the big bang, is speeding up.
That is, there will be more dark bits of the universe and even less atomic bits. What's global warming compared to galactic expansion? We need to immediately take drastic action to stop the universe from growing and perpetuating inequality. It's the poorest galaxies which will be most negatively affected, after all.
Remember when Democrats accused Republicans - particularly George W. Bush - of abusing their authority, defying the law and governing illegally? Of course, that was all just hyperbole - only the most fanatical and unhinged actually believed Bush or his ilk had actually broken the law. But Democrats demagogued and won elections on the promise of reversing these lawless trends.
Well, now Democrats are violating their own interpretation of lawful behavior as well as defying objective legal standards in every branch of government they control. First, as Robinson notes below, President Obama is engaged in an illegal war by his own standards and has now violated the War Powers Resolution. Second, Senate Democrats have not passed (or even proposed) a budged in over two years - a clear and blatent violation of the law which Harry Reid flippantly disregards. There can be no greater examples of prioritizing politics above the law than waging an unauthorized war and refusing to address fundamental fiscal responsibilities during an economic crisis.
Democrats are largely unfit to govern on account of their morally bankrupt, ever-expanding government policies - but their unsuitableness for democratic responsibilities is also well reflected in their disregard for the rule of law.
... and, the world hasn't ended.
Or, none of NLT's readers got picked up for the Rapture. No surprises there, I suppose.
Pity. Looks like you're stuck reading NLT a little longer!
As Doug Kendall of the Constitutional Accountability Center explained today, the Republicans who opposed Liu's nomination "were completely ignoring what Goodwin Liu testified to under oath," instead relying on "a distorted interpretation of things he said years ago in his scholarship." It was as if the sworn testimony had never even happened. Liu testified not once but twice before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he was unfailingly temperate, scholarly, and sober. Yet from the start Republicans depicted him as the Tim Riggins of the legal academy--all beer-soaked hair and bloody knuckles--and never varied that picture in the face of the evidence. The caricature of Liu as careless and reckless and "wacky" never dimmed, even while it never fit. A few lines plucked from a few articles, repeated on an infinite loop, obscured one of the most thoughtful and serious legal minds of a generation.
Columbus' own "Macho Man" Randy Savage died today. To loyal fans of the legendary faux wrestler, our most respectfully over-the-top and larger-than-life condolences. He was a colorful entertainer who helped define an entire genre.
Obama's most radically leftist nominee to the federal bench has been defeated by GOP filibuster in the Senate. Goodwin embodies the more extremist notions of the living constitution. Powerline discussed Liu's radicalism on several occasions.
The GOP and the Gang of 14 drew a line in the sand on Liu, defining his views as the "extraordinary circumstances" which merit judicial filibusters (see Richard Adams below). Time will tell if this is a singular anomaly or the beginning of a trend of GOP assertiveness on judicial nominations.
The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines....
Obama has long been accused of kowtowing to America's enemies while betraying our friends. This policy reversal on Israeli security - rejecting Israeli security while promoting Palestinians' "right to return" - surely fuels the fires of such accusations.
It looks like Senate Republicans are going to filibuster Goodwin Liu to keep him off the Bench. Turnabout is fair play, certainly. And precedents matter. But I wonder whether the filibuster is proper for nominees.
The key question is when the Senate is doing its "avise and consent" role, rather than working with the other branche(s) of the Legislature to make law, is it acting in Article I or Article II. If giving its advice and consent is not a legislative task, and if the filibuster is a legislative action, then the answer is no.
Given the precedents that exist already, it's probably too late to do anything, but I thought the question worth raising, perhaps as a matter of historical interest.
One could argue that way back at the start of Washington's first term, when the Senate kicked the President and Secretary of War out of their chamber, rather than discussing instructions for negotiations with the Creeks that set the precedent for most of what followed in that area.
1. Thou shalt make no hyperbolic nor dishonest criticisms of Ryan's policies nor those of any other Republican who suggests thoughtful policies for dealing with our fiscal situation.
2. Thou shalt not offend thy fellow citizens by offering shallow, dishonest, crowd pleasing pseudo-solutions to our fiscal problems. If thou makest policy suggestions, they shalt be responsible, and plausibly address the fiscal issues of the land.
3. Thou shalt not make an idol, nor even a litmus test, of Ryan's policies, and thou shalt welcome incisive critiques and plausible alternatives.
Since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act (PPACA) by a Democrat-controlled Congress and President Obama, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has given out 1,372 waivers to part of the law. Of the 204 most-recently approved Obamacare waivers, 38 went to restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs in Nancy Pelosi's congressional district--almost twenty percent. Three entire states have been granted exemptions from the law, the most recent being the state of Nevada--thanks to the work by one of the Obamacare architects, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV). The vast majority of those who have received waivers are large corporations and labor unions such as McDonalds and the Teamsters.
Most of these waivers are not complete exemptions from the law, and so far do not appear to be permanent. They mostly target one section of the law that makes it illegal to place annual or lifetime limits on health plans, and most of the big businesses and unions in question currently offer limited coverage plans to some employers that would be rendered illegal due to Obamacare. Without the resources to be able to afford the more comprehensive coverage demanded by the law, businesses would need to drop coverage for their employees altogether in order to avoid being penalized. Rather than do that, they have lobbied HHS to get waivers that exempt them from this provision in the law.
The Obama Administration has justified this waiver practice by saying it avoids disruptions to some people's current health plans. It is worth noting that Congress did include language in PPACA that explicitly grants HHS authority to grant waivers to other particular provisions of the law, but did not make such permission for HHS to arbitrarily grant waivers for this portion. Thus it is no surprise that, without authority and thus without guidelines from Congress, the recipients of these generous waivers have been the wealthy, the well-connected, and the politically muscled rather than the struggling small businessman or the Midwestern farmer.
This waiver practice represents gross contempt for the rule of law by establishing an unequal application of the law, resulting in some being more burdened by Obamacare than others. It favors those wealthy and powerful enough to work their way through the complicated provisions of this overreaching boondoggle, opening the door for completely unacceptable corruption and favoritism. The waivers also serve a political purpose of allowing the Obama Administration to placate their political allies and wealthy corporations for a few years until the full law comes into effect, helping to mute criticism of Obamacare and keep its bad provisions from being fully realized in the mean time; they are betting on the belief that Americans would notice if tens of thousands of McDonalds employees suddenly lose their health plans, but not if a dozen people at the mom and pop place down the street do.
Some in Congress are doing what they can to rein in the Obama Administration and reinforce the rule of law. Congressman Michael Rogers (R-MI) and eighty others are sponsoring House Resolution 984: Health Care Waiver Fairness Act of 2011, which requires the administration to establish an official waiver process with clear, particular guidelines. The summary of the proposed law provided by GovTrack.us is:
"Health Care Waiver Fairness Act of 2011 - Amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Treasury to establish waiver processes under which the administrator of a health plan, an employer, an individual, or other entity may seek to waive the application of a health insurance coverage requirement under PPACA. Sets forth PPACA requirements that may be waived, including those related to minimum essential coverage and employers offering health care coverage to employees. Establishes requirements for the waiver process, including requiring submission of a statement describing how the imposition of the PPACA requirement would result in a significant decrease in access to coverage or a significant increase in premiums or other costs for such plan, employer, individual, or entity. Deems to be approved any waiver including such a statement. Requires the Secretary of HHS to conduct a public awareness campaign of the waiver process with funds made available for the Prevention and Public Health Fund."
Congress would do well to pass the Health Care Waiver Fairness Act in order to allow everyone who stands to suffer from Obamacare's implementation to have the same opportunities as the labor bosses and the Wall Street executives to receive a waiver. While it is important to take the seeking and giving of waivers as further proof that Obamacare is bad policy and thus should be repealed or radically amended, there is an even more important thing to protect here: respect for the rule of law.
We must remember that laws, not men, rule us. Before the law, with Justice deaf to our pleas and blind to our station in life, we are equal. When we allow men to become the arbitrators of their own personal form of law, politics and corruption overcome unprotected Justice and we find ourselves in a land of inequality and uncertainty. In engaging in this corrupt waiver practice, the architects and enforcers of this far-reaching health care law express contempt both for the power of Congress and the rule of law, and insult the common decency of our political order. Without the rule of law, we are without the protections of liberty and justice. It is shameful, and it must stop.
1. Gingrich should not be President. Obviously.
2. More importantly as Ross Douthat points out, we should avoid two temptations in talking about the Medicare reforms in Ryan's Path To Prosperity. First, we should avoid and stigmatize the kind of cynical, short-sighted, and incompetent triangulation displayed by Newt Gingrich. We are already having a "national conversation" on these matters, and Paul Ryan has done more than any other politician to advance that conversation. Politicians who combine hyperbolic attacks on Ryan with fantastical policy alternatives (end waste and fraud? really?) are worse than wasting our time. They are damaging our ability to think through our problems. It would be a good thing if other Republican politicians took this lesson from Gingrich's fiasco.
The second temptation is more subtle. Ryan's PTP has political and (I think) policy problems. Support for the PTP's Medicare proposals should not be a litmus test for either presidential or congressional candidates. Constructive disagreement from the right should be welcomed. We need more and more Ryan(ish) plans competing in the marketplace. If the 2012 Republican presidential nominee has a Medicare strategy of "cut fraud" and "have a national conversation", the Republicans will certainly have failed to be equal to the moment. If the Republican nominee is running on an unmodified PTP, they will be worthy of respect, but they will have missed an opportunity to give themselves the best chance to win and implement the change we need.
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Confidence in progress has now been replaced by postulation of change. Progress is achieved and can be welcomed, but change just happens and must be adjusted to. "Adjusting to change" is now the unofficial motto of Harvard, mutabilitas instead of veritas. To adjust, the new Harvard must avoid adherence to any principle that does not change, even liberal principle. Yet in fact it has three principles: diversity, choice, and equality. To respect change, diversity must serve to overcome stereotypes, though stereotypes are necessary to diversity. How else is a Midwesterner diverse if he is not a hayseed? And diversity of opinion cannot be tolerated when it might hinder change.
Ramesh Ponnuru argues that Mitt Romney's interests coincide with those of Michele Bachmann. She would prevent Pawlenty or Daniels from consolidating the right-of-Romney vote (she would dominate the populist vote and Romney the establishment vote with Pawlenty and Daniels squeezed out) but have too narrow an appeal to win a nomination race against Romney. I think that is right if it comes to that, but I think there is another way to think about the divisions within the GOP primary electorate.
There are lots of axes dividing Republican primary voters. There are those who would not vote for either an economic or social liberal but who prioritize economic issues above social issues and vice versa. There are evangelical and non-evangelical voters. Ponnuru sets up the axis of establishment vs. populist. I think one very important axis dividing the GOP primary electorate is governance-oriented conservatism vs. subgroup affiliation-oriented conservatism.
On the one hand are voters who prioritize some kind of governing competence, electability and some minimum of ideological fidelity to what they imagine are conservative principles. On the other are voters who value the candidate's authenticity as a real conservative. It really isn't about ideology past a certain minimum (current pro-choicers and Obamacare supporters won't win over much of either group when push comes to shove.) A lot of it has to do with social group relations. Who do you show contempt for? Who shows contempt for you? For a certain fraction of voters, these questions are important markers of what side you are on. Or to put it another way: Alaska is not a right to work state and Alaska state workers are still unionized at the state level. Mitch Daniels ended collective bargaining for Indiana state government employees, slashed the size of the state employee workforce, and fought and won a series of education reforms that severely wounded the Indiana teacher unions. But if it came to a race between the two, some fraction of the Republican electorate would declare Palin the "real conservative" partly because Daniels didn't fight for right to work laws (he sacrificed that goal in the course of trying to get his education reforms through) and Palin was a principled and tough fighter for conservative goals. At this stage, whether you said Obama runs a gangster government works better for you (with a fraction of that electorate) than what you might have done to reform health care policy in your state. It isn't just the emotional satisfaction of seeing Obama and his media supporters assailed. The willingness to attack demonstrates the character that will be needed to take on the key issues of the day when times get tough in Washington. The contempt of the liberal media (especially if reciprocated) is a sign that they will never co-opt you. Pawlenty understands this dynamic. That is why he hollered about Obama's apologies and used a domestic violence metaphor in describing how Obama's agenda should be opposed.
Romney's main current challenge is not that Daniels or Pawlenty will consolidate the right-of-Romney and win enough centrist-leaning voters to beat Romney. It is that they will displace Romney among those voters who most value displays of governing competence and conservative accomplishment. When it comes to records as political executives, they both have him beat. Pawlenty and Daniels did not convert to being pro-life just before running for President. Daniels's social "truce" comment will hurt him (as it should), but he also signed Indiana's law defunding Planned Parenthood and defended it prudently. They both slashed government spending and balanced budgets, but neither signed an Obamacare-like health care bill. Daniels' record on reforming health care policy is far superior to Romney's. They also served two terms to Romney's one. When it comes to policy and ideological consistency, Daniels and Pawlenty are superior to Romney. In 2008, Romney could have argued that he was the candidate who best combined executive competence with ideological consistency (if you bought the makeover), but that was when his main opponents were Huckabee (often sounded too statist on economic issues) McCain (amnesty, the Bush tax cuts, and too much else), Giuliani ( where to begin..) and Fred Thompson (no executive experience.) Romney could claim either an experience or ideological advantage against any one of them.
Lacking the experience and ideological advantages of 2008, Romney will have to use his name recognition and war chest to prevent Pawlenty and Daniels from drawing away those voters looking for governing competence (well one definition of it anyway), conservatism, and electability.
The Sage of Mt. Airy reminds us what's really wrong with Gingrich's opportunistic attack on Paul Ryan: as a deprivation of liberty, social engineering is by definition left-wing. Moreover:
Use of the phrase belies a fundamental belief that what currently divides our country can be adequately captured on some continuum of thought, left to right. But that notion itself belies an even more fundamental belief that, actually, nothing divides our country, that it's all a matter of degree. The modern, nanny-state leviathan is the norm; we're only arguing about more or less, (Always privileging "more", of course.)
The GOP seems to be having some trouble in New York. Some thoughts,
1. The Republican candidate seems flat footed and the "Tea Party" candidate is a classic straw (a candidate with no chance to win whose goal is to to help one of the viable candidates by pulling votes from another viable candidate.)
2. Medicare reform has to be a choice between centrally administered rationing that will hit current seniors (the Obama/Democrat approach) and patient-centered reform for future seniors. If it is just Republican Medicare cuts vs. nothing, then Republicans lose. And Republicans have to be on offense tying their Democratic opponets to IPAB.
3. Gingrich made the job of Democrats marginally easier. His new first name is Even (as is even Newt Gingrich the right-wing Speaker is against this radical right-wing social engineering plan.)
4. The Capretta-Miller Medicare reform plan would be a more prudent reform plan for 2012 (along with being better policy imho.)
With no video, no search optimization, no slide shows, and a design that is right out of mid-'90s manual on HTML, The Drudge Report provides 7 percent of the inbound referrals to the top news sites in the country.
The site also generates 12-14 million unique visitors / month.
How does Matt Drudge do it (all these years after the Lewinski scandal that propelled him to fame)? Simple. He does one thing (wire editing) very well and he doesn't let anything else pollute the simplicity. The site generates 12-14 million unique visitors / month.
And, adding further insult to injury for the MSM, Matt Drudge is a conservative. While he links broadly and needn't stoop to pandering, the tilt of his headlines and organization are often unflattering toward liberals. But the news itself untouched by Drudge - he just offers an assortment of links and leaves it to the reader to judge the truth. Imagine that as a concept of journalism - no wonder the MSM hate him.
Unwilling to trade fortune and fame for a public salary, Donald Trump has bowed out of the presidential race. Trump was always more of a side-show distraction than a serious option in the eyes of most Republicans, but he garnered a good amount of attention, affected the field (Obama finally revealed his birth certificate) and provided a bit of insight into popular sentiments. One shouldn't ignore the fact that Trump lead in many GOP presidential polls. This may not have translated into an actual electoral victory, but it reveals that voters were attracted to a non-political businessman willing to speak his mind (even when they were not altogether persuaded by everything that he said).
People are still hungry for change. Obama promised change and was elected on that account, but he failed to deliver. As a result, people were willing to entertain the prospect of a TV entertainer as president. They want anything but the status quo. Republicans should be mindful of this lesson, and thankful to Trump for stirring up the pot.
Do you ever buy coffee or other products marketed as "Fair Trade" because you think it's better for the farmers who produce them?
Yeah, me neither.
Look, I have my disagreements with Paul Ryan's Medicare reform proposal, but calling it "right-wing social engineering" is a level of demagogy that not even President Obama has stooped to (yet). The only Medicare policy proposal Gingrich offered (and I'm using the word "proposal" loosely) is to eliminate waste. Behold the idea factory at work. He also came out for new tax cuts. But don't worry about the trillion dollar budget deficits as far as the eye can see. He will bring those budgets under control by (wait for it...) cutting waste. He also referred to himself as a "proposer of very serious, very fundamental policy change."
Several political scientists I have great respect for have been discussing whether they would prefer Gingrich or Palin as Republican nominee and President if it came to a constrained choice between the two. Palin. By a mile.
Kevin "Seamus" Hasson has announced that he is leaving the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the preeminent religious liberty law firm which he founded and has led since 1994. I interned with the Becket Fund during law school and had the good fortune to work with Seamus (as he demanded to be called, refusing to be called Mr. Hasson in the house that he built). Later this week, Hasson will be awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters by the Catholic University of America. Both he and the law firm are extraordinary entities.
But the Becket Fund will not be left without able leadership. William Mumma of Mitsubishi Securities will serve as the next president and Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law will become chair of the board. Capable hands.
James Taranto calls out the New York Times' editorial board for hypocrisy in opposing the Supreme Court ruling in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion when compared to its support of the Kelo decision supporting eminent domain.
Taranto aptly cites the Times' "phony populism" in raising the specter of class warfare in their new opposition whereas they were possessed of no such scruples with regard to Kelo. Perhaps the fact that the paper "benefited from eminent domain in clearing the land for the new building it is constructing opposite the Port Authority Bus Terminal" explains the seeming contradiction.
The Times editorialists pose as class warriors against corporations, but in fact are selective and self-serving. Never get into a foxhole with the Old Gray Lady; you will find she is an unfaithful ally.
A clinical trial has revealed that new antiretroviral drugs reduce HIV transmission rates by 96%. A New York Times op-ed rightly describes this breakthrough as extraordinary. Yet the op-ed is not a news bulletin, but rather a call for increased funding.
The author laments "the cruelty-creep and passion-drift by federal and state governments" and their "lack of financing and fealty in the fight against AIDS." While an appeal for greater funding for medical research is hardly ignoble, the cause for AIDS research in the U.S. has long benefited from a PR campaign which has garnered greater resources than are statistically defensible. This inequality presents cruelty and a lack of passion toward other, more prevalent and deadly diseases.
Deaths due to heart, brain and lung disease, as well as cancers and other infectious diseases, dwarf AIDS fatalities in the U.S. About 17,000 people died last year from AIDS, compared to well over a million from heart disease - yet per patient expenditures for AIDS treatment is 100 times higher than that for heart disease. Even globally, where AIDS is a far greater threat, the disease is responsible for less than 5% of mortalities - a giant number, no doubt - but far less than heart disease (30%), infections (18%) and cancer (12%). Further, these latter diseases are usually unpreventable through personal behavior - non-smokers may still get lung cancer, but chaste non-needle-sharers are in the clear from AIDS.
HIV research deserves attention and funding, but the criteria for determining public priorities for any disease should consist of a just (i.e., non-political) assessment of frequency and lethality, means and capacity for prevention, per patient cost, likelihood of finding a cure, etc. Under such criteria, HIV research is likely due for a funding cut.
Ron Paul is running for president.
The "comments" sections of political blogs across the country will be inundated with cut-and-paste, non-sequitur, spam-like rants from fanatical, OCD paulbots for the next 18 months.
I'm actually not radically opposed to Paul and think he contributes to the GOP ideology and debate. The most annoying aspect of a Ron Paul candidacy is the Ron Paul following which treats their icon with the same adulation due his apostolic namesake. In this one case, I'd seriously entertain the concept of internet censorship!
In a 2002 "letter to the American people," Bin Laden denounced America's sexual exploitation of women:
Your nation exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools, calling upon customers to purchase them. You plaster your naked daughters across billboards in order to sell a product without any shame. You have brainwashed your daughters into believing they are liberated by wearing revealing clothes, yet in reality all they have liberated is your sexual desire.
Rarely did I find cause to agree with Bin Laden - I didn't even agree with his likely appeal not to be shot in the head - but the bearded-one wasn't actually so far off on this particular observance. (NB:I didn't subscribe to his proposed solution to the problem.)
Yet it doesn't seem that the Turbaned Talibaner walked the walk. According to the New York Times:
The enormous cache of computer files taken from Osama bin Laden's compound contained a considerable quantity of pornographic videos.
Hardly the most strategically useful discovery, but illuminating nonetheless. The leaders of terror networks are never the one's strapping on suicide belts - that's reserved for the true-believers among the lower ranks. Just as leftists leaders love to redistribute other people's wealth to achieve social justice while fully enjoying their own lavish lifestyles, terrorist leaders spend other people's lives to oppose vices they fully enjoy in the privacy of their cave basements.
I suspect Bin Laden believed most of his shtick, but I don't mind taking just a few minutes out of my day to trample on his grave by pointing out the righteous leader was a hypocritical porn-monger.
No, I'm not talking about Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi.
I had no idea these architectural monuments to communism existed in Yugoslavia, but their "re-discovery" provides an interesting reflection on an era quickly passing out of memory. (As an aside, yesterday was the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia - about 30 octogenarians showed up at the grave of Klement Gottwald, the first communist leader of the country, to mourn communism's demise.)
Romney's speech yesterday has gotten mostly bad reviews (Chris Christie spoke up for Romney.) I'm not sure what the point of the speech was if he was just going to repeat the same talking points about Obamacare and Romneycare he has been saying for about a year now. His points seem to be:
1. Wave his hand in your direction and then, in British accent, say, "These are not the glaringly obvious policy similarities you are looking for."
2. Tell you that the Romneycare/Obamacare approach of coverage mandates + individual purchase mandates + subsidies + guaranteed issue + community rating (the last two predated, but were incorporated into Romneycare) is, for some unarticulated reason good for Massachusetts but not for 49 other states.
3. Have a federal reform strategy that is at odds with his record as governor. He wants tort reform, and the ability to purchase insurance across state lines. That's great, but those policies can be implemented in one state. He didn't accomplish that. His actual record in Massachusetts looks more like Obamacare in one state rather than market-oriented health care reform in one state.
The increased salience of the health care issue, and the similarities between Obamacare and Romneycare are a big problem for Romney. Romney had four major appeals going for him in 2008. They were:
1. He was brilliant businessman who understood how the economy works.
2. He was (after his social policy makeover) the most orthodox conservative of the major contenders for the nomination on the most salient issues of the moment (unlike the tax raising Huckabee and the pro-amnesty McCain.) Romney was supported by National Review. He had the passive support of much of conservative talk radio. It wasn't so much that the major voices were for him as much as they were against Huckabee and McCain, but it was something.
3. He was a competent governor of Massachusetts.
4. His ability to win in Massachusetts suggested that he could win a national election.
His appeal as a businessman/economics guy is still mostly intact, but the rising premiums in Massachusetts might put something of a dent in the idea that he is great on economics. His appeal as an orthodox conservative (always shaky) is shattered. His appeal as a competent governor might still work but it is going to be tough making that argument to a right-leaning Republican primary electorate who will probably dislike with his signature achievement. His electability appeal might come into play depending on how the Republican primary process plays out.
Romney's health care policy weaknesses have reduced him to his (significant) bedrock assets. He has name recognition and a national organization. He will have enough money to run as many ads as he wants. If he wants to hit another candidate, everybody will see the attack ads plenty of times. Romney will be as ruthless in his attack ads as he feels he needs to be. He will say whatever he thinks will help him get elected. People might question his authenticity, but pretty much everyone agrees that Romney is sane and well informed.
Romney is in a tough position, but he is not necessarily doomed. I can see a scenario where the Republican presidential primary race winnows down to Romney and another candidate whose personal/stylistic/electoral disabilities convince a majority of the voters to put aside their concerns about Romney and vote for him as the lesser evil. That means that Romney needs to turn the Republican nomination contest into a desperately constrained choice between himself and some "unelectable" conservative identity politics-oriented candidate (maybe Gingrich or Bachmann) with appalling approval ratings among independents. But getting to that kind of two person race is going to be the real challenge for Romney. Before he can beat a Bachmann or a Gingrich (and it isn't 100% certain that he would), he would first have to destroy Pawlenty and Daniels early in the nominating process.
I wouldn't be on this scenario. I think it is more likely that Romney's popular and institutional support melts away before Christmas. But stranger things have happened.
"It is good for Catholic universities to host and engage the thoughts of powerful public figures, even Catholics such as yourself who fail to recognize (whether out of a lack of awareness or dissent) important aspects of Catholic teaching."Yet, as Father Sirico points out, their single objection to Speaker Boehner's understanding of Catholic social justice teaching clearly reveals their own failure to understand it. The writers of this embarrassing letter counsel that: "From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor." This, of course, is true. But Sirico insists that any real understanding of Catholic social teaching would also include a recognition that one cannot jump "seamlessly" between a principle and its application. As he puts it:
To jump so seamlessly from the Magisterium's insistence on the fundamental and non-negotiable moral obligation to the poor to the specifics of contingent, prudential, and political legislation is wholly unjustified in Catholic social teaching.This sums it up nicely, but there is much more to it, so read the whole exchange. I think Father Sirico's response, moreover, is a masterful and devastatingly polite answer to people who barely deserve such graciousness but get it, anyway, because Father Sirico is a true Christian. This is a real demonstration, not only of his faith, but of the very real and persuasive power behind it.
Catholic social thought is about the empowerment of the poor. It is not about failed policies of social assistance that treat poor people as problems to be solved rather than as people with potential to be unleashed.Abraham Lincoln was no Catholic, but I don't think he could have said it better.
Let us put aside Gingrich's marital woes. I want to push back against the idea that Gingrich is, in the present, the "idea factory" for Republicans. Gingrich is not the ideas guy in the Republican Party and he hasn't been that guy for a long time. Check out his "Nine Acts of Real Change That Could Restore the GOP Brand" from 2008. It turns out that one of those acts of real change was cutting the budget of the census. There is the change we need. Compare that 2008 list to the 1994 Contract With America or the Ryan Roadmap. The most important word in Gingrich's 2008 plan is "brand." This isn't being an ideas guy. This is being a hustler who gets by on the ideas guy brand.
The problems with Gingrich don't end there. There was his demagogic ethanol speech. I don't especially mind Gingrich supporting ethanol. Most presidential candidates (excluding John McCain and Bruce Babbitt) end up spouting some nonsense about national energy security and family farms as a way of getting votes in Iowa. But there was something ugly about Gingrich's cynical moralism about big city folks wanting to kill ethanol because "it works." Then there was Gingrich's (clintonian?) evasion about his ties to the ethanol lobby. He then tried to paint Obama as mental alien/not-really-American until he was trumped by Trump (who argued that Obama was an alien at birth.)
Let's get some perspective. Paul Ryan is an ideas guy. John Kasich is an ideas guy. Mitch Daniels is an ideas guy. Gingrich has degenerated into a narrative spinner whose policies are marketing props. He can tell a story about how a conservative future will arise out of a broken liberal past. This invites comparisons to the vision of Ronald Reagan and the wonkiness of Paul Ryan. The problem is that on inspection he lacks the virtues and abilities of those men. Unlike Reagan, Gingrich has never shown appeal beyond a subgroup of the conservative electorate. He has never held an elected executive position and he resigned in confusion less than four years into his speakership. His recent sloganeering about acts of "real change" (like banning earmarks for a year) are a poor contrast to the real risks that are being taken by politicians with jobs to lose.
Quote of the Day
In my earlier post on Obama's appeal to Latinos, I missed his slap at Republicans:
Even though we've answered these concerns, I've got to say i suspect there's still some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time. You know, they said 'we needed to triple the border patrol.' Well, now they're going to say we need to quadruple the border patrol, or they'll want a higher fence. Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they'll want alligators in the moat. They'll never be satisfied. I understand. That's politics. But the truth is the measures we put in place are getting results
While he's obviously wrong about having met Conservative's concerns, the bit about the alligators is pretty funny. And not an entirely bad idea, actually . . . .
UPDATE: See Jim Dimint's article at NRO for a detailed response to Obama's speech.
If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher?
"According to a new report, 47 percent of Detroiters are 'functionally illiterate,' " Detroit's WWJ-AM reported last week:
WWJ Newsradio 950 spoke with the Fund's Director, Karen Tyler-Ruiz, who explained exactly what this means.
"Not able to fill out basic forms, for getting a job -- those types of basic everyday (things). Reading a prescription; what's on the bottle, how many you should take... just your basic everyday tasks," she said.
We were reminded of this by a report from CNSNews.com:
The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) training mission in Afghanistan predicts that only about 50 percent of Afghan military forces will be able read and write at the 1st grade level by January 2012, according to a Department of Defense report mandated by lawmakers.
Another thing Detroit and Afghanistan have in common is they both have a lot of American-built schools.
Boehner has announced that tax increases are "off the table" in negotiations on deficit reduction and posited $2 trillion in spending cuts as the price for GOP accedence to a higher debt ceiling.
What some are suggesting is we take the money from people who would invest in our economy and create jobs and give it to the government. The fact is you can't tax the people we expect to invest in the economy and create jobs. Washington doesn't have a revenue problem. Washington has a spending problem.
These are words to make a Tea Partier smile. Now, if Boehner can just keep from collapsing as he did with last year's budget debacle, he may gain some credibility with those same Tea Partiers and earn their zeal in 2012.
Obama has begun reaching out to Latinos, whom the New York Times describes as "disappointed that he has not done more on immigration." This is untrue, of course, as Obama has done a great deal for gay immigrants - some of whom may have been Latino. This lax enforcement of immigration law is part of Obama's outreach package to gays, which also includes hate crime legislation, repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and a decision not to
enforce judicially defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The result of Obama's recent attentiveness to the gay community has transformed a previously angry and disillusioned constituency into his most generous donor base. "Obama's finance committee included one gay man in 2008," according to Politico, whereas "there are 15 this year."
So, Obama is hoping that the neglected Latino community - which, like gay activists, saw all of Obama's campaign promises evaporate after the election - will prove equally forgiving. Yet, other than giving speeches, Obama's only options is to again refuse to enforce federal law by halting deportations - and perhaps suing a few more states to ensure they don't step in where he steps aside. But that strategy won't win him many friends among independents.
Many socially conservative Latinos have long proved single-issue voters on immigration - and thus thralls to the Democratic party. 67% broke for Obama in '08. But the buck stops with Obama now, and he has few platitudes to throw toward Latinos. As on many electoral matters, at least some Latino votes are Republican's to lose.
Refine & Enlarge
Sane people are best advised to simply ignore the fever swamp of liberalism which is the New York Time's editorial page. But occasionally it's interesting to gain a glimpse into the views of extremists. The Time's celebrates the sanctity of Mother's Day with Stephanie Coontz's revisionist essay, "When We Hated Mom" and Nicholas Kristof's appeal for greater funding for abortion and contraception to prevent motherhood.
Coontz - who unsurprisingly began her career as a leader of the Young Socialist Alliance - continues her quest to denigrate traditional womanhood and motherhood as the only remaining avenue by which to defend the legacy of modern feminism. The truth, of course, is that feminism began as a noble cause and succeeded in accomplishing most of its goals. At the end of the game, winners usually take a victory lap and move on. But the radicals can't let go - they create new, absurd goals and rely on the noble legacy of their history to coerce sympathy until at last they have so corrupted their cause as to have divorced it from all previous accomplishments. Thus, the rise and fall of American feminism - and its current shameful treatment of women and mothers. Coontz credits feminism with allowing women to choose "meaningful work" over motherhood.
Kristof provides less philosophy with which to argue. He sums up his Planned Parenthood appeal essay by criticizing Republicans for voting to fund sterilization for wild horses but not for women. I'm sure he didn't really mean to compare women to horses, but his inability to recognize a distinction between policies for animal breeding and human beings is dismaying.
So, motherhood was never that great and we should observe a day devoted to mothers by celebrating means by which to prevent and terminate pregnancies. That's the left's celebration of motherhood. Intersting, at least.
Did you know the origins of mother's day date back to the Civil War, when mothers of sons who died on opposing sides of the war met in an attempt to foster healing and friendship? Most mother's day events nowadays are a bit less demanding - usually involving lots of chocolate and flowers. So, to all our NLT moms:
But most stuff is:
1. Private sector job growth is looking good. If the pattern holds, it will do more to aid Obama's reelection than the killing of Bin Laden.
2. It looks like it is only a matter of time before a series of sovereign defaults in Europe. I don't know what this means for the US banking system. If we have an international banking crisis prior to November 2012 it will be bad for the President but much worse for the rest of us.
All of this is out of the control of the Republicans. Nothing to do but work at the blocking and tackling of politics and nominate a candidate who can articulate the policy changes we need to the widest possible audience.
Is China a friend of the U.S.? The number of espinage cases suggests we need to pay closer attention to what China is up to:
A least 57 defendants in federal prosecutions since 2008 charging espionage conspiracies with China or efforts to pass classified information, sensitive technology or trade secrets to intelligence operatives, state-sponsored entities, private individuals or businesses in China, according to an Associated Press review of US Justice Department cases.
Paul Rahe has argued that the GOP should eschew their traditional pessimism and defeatism in light of a new birth of freedom. However, Rahe laments the GOP's "gift for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" by nominating "the next fellow on the list without much regard to the man's suitability." He contrasts Bob Dole and John McCain with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, observing that "Americans do not want to be governed by the living dead."
Surveying the field for a GOP standard-bearer last week, Rahe dismissed Trump as a useful clown, excluded Romney as uninspirational, nixed Gingrich and Huckabee as unsuitable "to articulate the case for limited government," questioned Pawlenty as lacking conviction and so finally landed on Mitch Daniels - praising him on fiscal issues, pardoning him on social issues but remaining skeptical about foreign affairs. This week, Rahe revealed the only alternative he sees to Daniels: Paul Ryan.
Rahe has serious reflections for the GOP and has, I believe, a grasp of the American zeitgeist. Both Ryan and Daniels have the potential to steal the energy, optimism and youthfulness to which American's responded in Obama, while fully appealing to the vibrant Tea Party sentiment within the conservative movement.
Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has written a book entitled, "Catholics in Politics." The introduction by Stefano Fontana is available on Zenit. An excerpt:
The fundamental issue tackled by Most. Rev. Crepaldi's book (Catholics in Politics, A Handbook for the Recovery, Cantagalli, Siena 2010) is the status of politics, what politics is, and in doing so it assumes a metaphysical vision of politics, which serves as the epistemological basis for a theological foundation of politics. To paraphrase what Horrkheimer had to say in "Nostalgia of the totally other-than-self", and Joseph De Maistre even before him, politics is first of all and above all a theological issue. This is the book's main premise and on that basis it challenges Catholics in politics. Opening up before us on the basis of this approach to things is a complete series of fundamental questions.
. . .
The subject of the book, therefore, is whether the city of man can be suitably constituted without reference to the city of God. It is a matter of the autonomy of the temporal with respect to the spiritual, of nature with respect to race, of politics with respect to religion. A fundamental theme for all times, but especially for ours, which seem to even have lost the selfsame sense of the problem at hand, to say nothing of its solutions. St. Augustine pondered the causes behind the downfall of the Roman empire. He defended the Christians against those who accused them of being the main cause and called the pagans into the picture saying the empire had fallen due to the vices that had replaced the traditional virtues. But this means the virtues existed even before Christianity. Gilson notes in this regard: he specified this so people would not deceive themselves about the specific supernatural aim of the Christian virtues. The Christian virtues make Christians citizens of another city. But in so doing Christianity also releases all the constructive forces of temporal society and it is not necessary for the temporal sphere to refuse looking upon itself as a stage towards eternity. This is why I consider the more important phrase of Bishop Crepaldi's book to be the one on page 63; a phrase well worth the whole book: "When a Catholic in politics strives to clarify the problem of laicity for himself I think he should ask himself two questions: the first is if Christ is just useful for the building up of social togetherness in harmony with human dignity, or if He is indispensable. The second is if eternal life after material death has any relationship with the community organization of this life in society".
It's what I do.
1. Bret Baier started off by throwing Pawlenty a quote where Pawlenty called Obama weak and then asked him how that squared with the killing of Bin Laden. Pawlenty gave a plausible response. He was gracious in giving Obama credit for Bin Laden's death but quickly shifted to the big picture. Pawlenty gave the vague impression that he was in favor of waterboarding but without using the term.
2. Santorum comes off badly on his Bin Laden question. He gives a small spirited, harshly partisan and not entirely accurate account of Obama's Afghanistan policy (Obama did adopt and resource a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.) There is also a note of hysteria in Santorum's demeanor.
3. Baier asked Pawlenty about waterboarding and Pawlenty danced around the question. Baier then asked for a show of hands as to who would authorize waterboarding under certain circumstances. Pawlenty then raised his hand. Baier kind of had Pawlenty's number. I'm not sure what Pawlenty thought he had to gain by the tack he took. First he refused to commit and the he refused to commit to not committing. It made him look shifty.
4. Pawlenty is pretty good at transitioning questions on economics to his blue collar roots and personal experience of economic anxiety and decline. He also didn't answer the question what policies he would adopt to spur job creation. He did get in a shot at the National Labor Relations Board and the Obama administration.
5. Cain's policy on gas prices is the same as his policy on Afghanistan. He will have a plan at some point in the future.
6. Santorum had a pretty good answer on Medicare Part D using private competition to reduce costs to the government, but the stuff about capping the Medicare entitlement is the wrong frame. We're not really arguing about capping Medicare. Both the Obamas and Ryans of the world are going to limit Medicare spending at some level. Obama wants one-size-fits-all centralized rationing. Ryan wants a choice of plans in which seniors can choose which procedures (above a government mandated minimum) they want. It would be even better if we had a plan where seniors faced better incentives. If seniors wanted a plan that didn't cover certain high cost, low success procedures that they might or might not need someday, then they should have greater disposable income in the here and now (including pocketing some of the government-provided premium support.) If they want coverage for those procedures then they pay more and get more peace of mind. It beats waiting to get sick and then wondering if some committee is going to tell them to shut up and die.
7. Santorum's answer on Obamacare wasn't so good. More passion than coherence.
8. Gary Johnson is so awkward he is likeable. His proposal to immediately cut Medicare spending by over 40% and block grant the program to the states would have killed his chance to be President if he'd had one.
9. Then there is his unconditional amnesty and open borders position. Give him credit. He would rather be Gary Johnson than President. Good for him and good for us.
10. Pawlenty knows his issue salience. He turned a question about creationism into an answer about his working-class roots and the connected interests of employers and employees.
Herman Cain is going to make some noise. He has a kind of socially conservative Ross Perot "I'll get some smart people together and with my managerial skill and public spiritedness we'll solve our problems and you can trust me because I did it in business" approach. This approach creates (for a while) the impression of expertise without all the costs and trade-offs that would be evident if you discussed actual policies. It tries to convince people that you are detail-oriented without having to give details.
It isn't just Cain's business experience. It is that Cain can present himself as a businessman-outsider who will save politics from the politicians. Romney has business experience but he can't replicate Cain's outsider appeal because Romney (by both background and demeanor) comes across as almost a cartoon of a slick politician. Cain's combination of business experience + outsiderness + managerial approach to political problems + minimal policy content will get him some attention and some support. It is a kind of technocracy that many conservatives will find attractive at first, but if he becomes more than a gadfly he will need a second act.
One thing that drove me nuts about the Frank Luntz focus group was the people saying that Cain "really answered questions." Well maybe compared to Pawlenty, but Cain came in a distant fourth when it came to answering questions candidly and completely. Rick Santorum (who came out for capping Medicare immediately and converting it into a premium support program for current seniors) answered questions. Ron Paul (who wanted to undo American collective security arrangements and legalize heroin) answered questions. Gary Johnson (who came out for amnesty, open borders, and huge immediate Medicare cuts) damn sure answered questions. This is like several weeks ago when I heard people (Hannity and one of those people who fill in for Neil Cavuto as well as lots of talk radio callers) calling Donald Trump a straight shooter. There is something about emotionally satisfying (and especially cost free) answers that makes people want to describe those answers as the opposite of what they really are. Cain seems a far better and more serious man than Trump, but he wasn't the guy who really answered questions. He was the guy who was going to have a meeting (possibly after the election) and get back to you.
House Speaker Boehner is nominating a Jesuit priest, former Georgetown University chaplain Patrick J. Conroy, as the 60th House chaplain. Conroy will be the first Jesuit, and only the third non-Protestant, chaplain in the chamber's history.
A Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll indicates that only 1 in 8 Americans blame gas prices on "political or policy-related" factors. Most blame a nexus of "greed, speculation and oil companies." Factually, this is somewhat inverse to the true nature of things - private speculation is a phantom with negligible effect on oil prices and greedy oil-companies are a straw man which Obama hopes to publically vilify as a means of extracting ever increasing tax revenue (and thereby aid "green" energy). These rhetorical villains are conveniently evoked to corral people into cheering the very source of their economic pain: government intrusion in the market.
Obama is thus enjoying great fortune. He will own gas prices at the election, but not so dearly if external factors are seen to share the blame. Republican candidates would do well to educate the public on the facts of oil prices as well as the inevitable effects of Obama's policies toward oil producers between now and next November.
Refine & Enlarge
Charles Lane writes well of European criticism toward Obama in the wake of Bin Ladin's death in today's WaPo:
By ordering a covert raid on Pakistan that resulted in Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of Navy SEALs, Obama has earned the kind of condemnation Europe's cognoscenti once reserved for his predecessor, George W. Bush.
And nowhere is the chorus more moralistic than in Germany, where former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, a Social Democrat, has pronounced the action "clearly a violation of international law." The quality press is full of carping and quibbling. Handelsblatt called the raid "an act that violates both the international prohibition of force and humanitarian law." Der Spiegel, under the headline "Justice, American Style," reports an expert's view that it's "questionable whether the USA can still claim to be engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaida." Elsewhere in the same journal, a reporter calls NewYork celebrations of bin Laden's death "reminiscent of Muslims celebrating in the Gaza Strip after the 9/11 attacks."
Lane comes close to identifying the cultural rift by noting:
It never occurs to [German critics] that Americans might not be celebrating bin Laden's death as such but the suddenly real chance that a long and costly struggle could end -- and end in victory, no less.
While some Americans reveled in the death itself, it is unmistakable that Bin Laden was the most symbolic personification of Islamic terrorism in the minds of most Americans. He was murderous, unrepentant and irritatingly beyond our ability to exterminate. His defeat, therefore, provides hope (as Obama smiles) to Americans that the greater evil can be overcome in the same manner as its emissary.
Europe will always stew in its taciturn brooding when America succeeds where they could not, and Obama was always wrongly confident that his post-American persona would alter this condition. Lane commends Obama's leadership and suggests that "he, like his predecessor, should wear [European scorn] as a badge of honor." This will not happen, not only because Obama is incapable of expressing any commonality with Bush, but because Obama likely sympathizes with his European critics.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
The first GOP debate took place today in South Carolina between Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain (view a bit here). Though many of the debaters make up the GOP's second string, they seem to have brought their A game. Cain, as noted by Pete, seems to have been the breakaway candidate - and Cain doesn't even qualify as a GOP benchwarmer. The sample group featured on Hannity's Fox News slot are sold on Cain, though I agree with Pete that his star will fade.
Of course, none of this really matters yet. My foreign lady is still shocked that we're having presidential debates 18 months ahead of the election, and most Americans probably share her sentiment (mixed with a bit of jaded annoyance). The true significance is simply that the presidential cycle has fully begun.
Refine & Enlarge
This week's Letter from an Ohio Farmer focuses on how difficult civic and civil conversations are in our democratic politics, and yet how necessary and good they are when well done. And then: "Our civic moderation might be further strengthened by the reminder we received on Sunday night that, whatever the lively differences among ourselves in our pursuit of happiness, we are at war--and have been ever since that surprising turn in the course of human events on September 11, 2001. Whatever our differences, we join past generations of Americans, going back to the Revolutionary generation, in mutually pledging to one another "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." The sacrifices of many patriots teach us constantly that this is no vagrant commitment, that there is some enduring thing in our country for the sake of which Americans make such a pledge, generation after generation, each to all and all to each. They teach us to summon the better angels of our nature to our national conversations as we pursue our happiness in freedom."
Incidentally, if you would like to receive an email notification when a new Letter is published, you can sign up to receive one on the Farmer website by entering your email address in the field in the upper portion of the right column. You can also follow the Farmer on Twitter.
In ascending order of significance:
--The breathtaking operation that took down Osama bin Laden represents a victory not only for the country at-large and for President Obama but for proponents of American unilateralism. The president didn't wait for U.N. approval, nor did he consult the Pakistanis before taking down the twenty-first century's greatest mass murderer. That alone is gratifying.
--Predictably, the president now hopes to capitalize on a resurgent "national unity." He said as much in his Sunday speech and again the next day. To this the loyal opposition might respond with something like the following: "Mr. President, when you make a decision that rids the world of a monster, covers your administration and your country in glory, and secures your personal fame for all time, we will support you. When you and your allies in Congress attempt to force upon us unconstitutional legislation, however, we will resist you. This will never change."
--Meanwhile, President Obama is entitled to some well-earned basking in what promises to be an extended afterglow. Whether that glow extends all the way to November 2012 remains to be seen and, in any case, is beside the point. As I recently told my undergraduates, fifty years from today their grandchildren will not read a single speech from President William Jefferson Clinton, nor will they devote any serious study to any aspect of that lurid and inconsequential administration. The same cannot be said of President Obama, whose tenure, prior to Sunday's bombshell, already ranked among the most significant in recent U.S. history.
--Finally, there is the remarkable photo from the White House situation room. How interesting it would have been to be able to access the president's thoughts as that elite group of Navy SEALs, with exquisite execution, carried out one of the most dangerous missions imaginable. If President Obama allowed himself even a moment of reflection, then he must have marveled at the fact that men such as these, capable of such astonishing feats of heroism, actually exist in the world. It's humbling, to be sure. Of all the feelings conjured and expressed over the past few days, one hopes that this awe-inspired sense of humility will endure the longest.
Yeah I'm late, but I think slowly.
1. I listened to three conservative talk shows (two local and one national) in the two days following President Obama revealing his long form birth certificate. For some fraction of the callers, birtherism had taken on justification through self-referentialism. They still refused to fully believe that the President was born in the US, but they ascribed their own continuing malice and bad faith to flaws in the President. What a monster he must be to make them act so dishonestly.
2. Folks should stop acting as if birtherism is some kind of unique phenomenon. It has become quite common for some fraction of the opposition to connect the current President to the most despicable conspiracies (often worse than birtherism.) I'm not sure what fraction of the partisans actually believe the charges they are flinging about. I suspect most might doubt that factual basis of their particular charge but believe that the charge gets at something real at the core of their hate object.
Birtherism is just as stupid as the charges that the Bush Administration conspired (actively or passively) in the 9/11 attacks or that the Bush administration blew up the New Orleans levees (or otherwise conspired to flood the majority African American neighborhoods of New Orleans.) What unites all three is that they hold beliefs about the character of the President that is illustrated by, but not dependent on the conspiracy they are peddling. The hate comes first. The 9/11 truthers believe that the Bush administration was itching for a war in order to seize oil assets. The New Orleans levee conspiracists believe that the Bush administration was infinitely and maliciously racist. The birthers believe that Obama is (in some sense) anti-American and alien. Even if the conspiracies are untrue, they are still fake but accurate.
The biggest difference between birtherism and those others is that a celebrity with more marketing savvy than integrity chose to run a fake, flash-in-the-pan presidential campaign on the issue. When it came to trutherism, Rosie O'Donnell chose to remain co-host of a mainstream program (until she left for other reasons.) And Spike Lee spread the levees conspiracy but otherwise chose to remain a good citizen of Hollywood rather than running -or pretending to run - for office.
2. Like most truthers and levee conspiracists, most birthers will vote like rational political actors in 2012. Obama denied that the Bush administration was racist in the handling of Katrina and got the support of the left (mostly.) And most who have claimed that Obama was born outside the US will end up voting for a Republican who argues that Obama is a patriotic, native born American citizen who has some misguided policy ideas.
3. I've generally been disgusted by the birther issue, but some perspective is in order. I think the issue did some harm. There are opportunity costs. The time spent arguing about this issue would have more profitably been spent talking about Ryan's entitlement plans, but that mostly wasn't going to happen anyway. The Trump-related birther coverage was probably mostly going to go to some other celebrity story (royal wedding, some star passing out in a nightclub etc.) and not on issues. Even some of the coverage in the right leaning media (like Hannity calling Trump a straight shooter - gag) would have gone to something equally ephemeral. There was probably some crowding out, but not very much. Alas. Also, do you think that the median voter of November 2012 is going to vote against Pawlenty, Daniels or Romney (or whoever) because of something Donald Trump said in April 2011?
4. Ross Douthat is right that the killing of Bin Laden has reduced the political returns on finding ways to call Obama un-American. Killing bin Laden is a net positive for Obama (though intervening events and especially the course of the economy will be more important), but if it gets Republicans to spend more time talking about issues that are relevant to people's lives, it will be good for the Republicans too. And more importantly the country.
5. The most reassuring thing yesterday was Secretary of State Clinton's comments on Afghanistan where she repeated the US commitment to preventing the reemergence of an al-Qaeda client-state in Afghanistan. This is more important than the killing of Bin Laden. The Sunni Awakening and the Petraeus counterinsurgency strategy were more important than the slaying of al-Zarqawi in defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq. Killing Bin Laden is obviously much more important (s a symbolic matter and perhaps as a matter of jihadist morale) than the killing of al-Zarqawi, but it would be a damn shame if Bin Laden were killed but Afghanistan became an al-Qaeda staging base again
All this recent talk about who's in hell should turn our thoughts to some serious theology. One leading authority, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI), wrote in an early book of his:
The depths we call hell man can only give to himself. Indeed, we must put it more pointedly: hell consists in man's being unwilling to receive anything, in his desire to be self-sufficient. It is the expression of enclosure in ones's being alone. These depths accordingly consist by nature of just this: that man will not accept, will not take anything, but wants to stand entirely on his own feet, to be sufficient unto himself. If this becomes utterly radical, then man has become the untouchable, the solitary, the rejector. Hell is wanting-only-to-be-oneself.... Conversely, it is the nature of that upper end of the scale which we have called heaven that it can only be received, just as one can only give hell to oneself. (239).
Such an account would seem to place many a liberal (in the broad sense of one who believes in his moral and political autonomy) in hell. For more on hell see Fr. James V. Schall's conversation (about 3/5 of the way down). He has another, brighter take on hell here.
Thorough investigation of politics demands serious understanding of theology, including this most unpopular (and most unpleasant) notion of hell. Instead of the Five People You Meet in Heaven, we should consider issues such as whether one of the pleasures of those in heaven is contemplating the sufferings of the wicked in hell.
Maybe it's the fact that it's finals week, and am up to my neck in work. Maybe it's the persistent lousy weather (I don't ever remember having to wear a heavy jacket during finals week of spring semester). But although I see the death of bin Laden as an unalloyed good, I'm not ready to join in the celebrations.
First of all, they seem out of place. The comparisons to VE and VJ day are inevitable, I suppose, but they aren't apt. True, there was celebrating on VE day, even though there were still months of hard fighting ahead against the Japanese, but most Americans didn't expect that. They had believed all along that Tokyo was acting as a puppet of Berlin, and that the surrender of Germany would lead immediately to the end of the fighting in the Pacific as well. The new Truman administration knew better, as did the men who had encountered the Japanese in combat and understood how they fought. There wasn't much in the way of celebration of VE day on Okinawa and the Philippines.
Surely, the celebrations of VE Day and VJ Day were appropriate because they represented the destruction of the Axis war machine and the return of peace. What does the death of bin Laden mean? The end of patdowns and full-body scanners at airports? The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan? We all know that's not happening anytime soon. Indeed, we're now being put on alert about further al-Qaeda attacks.
At best, what happened over the weekend could be compared to the death of Hitler on April 30, 1945--eight days before VE Day. The news was warmly welcomed, of course, but there wasn't anything like the widespread spontaneous celebration that we saw on Sunday night. In fact, bin Laden's demise probably counts for even less than Hitler's, since it's unlikely that he had any real control over al-Qaeda operations in the past few years. It's hard to run a worldwide terrorist operation when you can't even use a telephone.
The comparison to Hitler leads me to the other reason why I haven't been jumping for joy. After Hitler's death Stalin was determined that he was going to get hold of the body. The Nazis recognized this, which is why they had it burned--unfortunately for them, there wasn't enough gasoline for a proper cremation. But as soon as Soviet troops entered the city, a special detachment of NKVD was tasked with finding his remains and spiriting them back to Moscow as soon as possible. Those remains were subjected to repeated testing over the next 25 years before finally being incinerated and scattered into a river in 1970.
By contrast, what has happened to bin Laden's body? Today it lies at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. Don't get me wrong. I don't believe that there was a conspiracy--that he was secretly released, or any foolishness like that. I'm certain that he's dead. But I'm puzzled by the apparent haste to get rid of the body. The only reason I've heard so far for handling things in this manner was the need to follow Islamic funeral protocols--a Muslim is expected to be buried within twenty-four hours of death. Not only does this strike me as an incredibly weak justification, but if it was done for the sake of Muslim sensibilities it has demonstrably not worked.
Would it have been a big problem to hang onto the body for a while? Not for the purpose of dragging it through the streets of New York City (although I understand why some might find that appealing), but to be able to pull it out for display whenever someone suggests that he's not really dead. Worried about his grave becoming a shrine for Muslim extremists? Fine--once it lost its usefulness, it could have been cremated and dumped, just as the Russians did with Hitler's bones in 1970.
Why does this matter? Because Bin Laden's leadership of al-Qaeda has been largely symbolic, which means that his death only serves the larger ends of the War on Terror to the extent that the terrorists themselves believe it and are demoralized by it. The quick disposal of the body opens the floodgates to the sort of conspiracy theories that already run wild in the Islamic world. Mark my words, it will not be long before we are hearing reports of Elvis-style sightings of Osama. He may even prove to be of greater service to the cause of Islamism dead than alive.
The president was to make the announcement fifteen minutes ago, but he is still delayed and the press has broken the story. Apparently, Bin Laden was killed last week by a U.S. bomb and we have his body.
Just rewards, even if belatedly served.
Obama will take credit (shared with the military), because this event took place on his watch. That's fair. But, as an anti-war candidate and hesitant wartime president, Obama should take care not to overplay his hand. Most Americans will not credit his policies with the kill, but the military's dogged pursuit. It would be nice if Obama also shared credit with George W. Bush, who's policy he has followed in Afghanistan - but don't bet on it.
While of uncertain strategic importance, Bin Laden's death is a long overdue symbolic victory for America. If it also has a positive effect on regional politics, all the better.
Some thoughts on two of my favorite Republicans,
1. I'm late getting to it, but I've read some commentary about a potential Paul Ryan run for President. I admire Paul Ryan (not to say I agree with every detail of his every policy proposal), but I don't think he would make for the best Republican presidential candidate. As regular commenter Art Deco pointed out in the threads, Ryan's has little experience of either executive responsibility or the private sector. He is primarily a congressional aid turned member of Congress. This kind of experience is a substantive weakness, but it is also a political weakness. The obvious retort is that Obama had no experience as a political executive (along with a thin legislative record) and he was elected President. That is true, but circumstances differ. As a social democratic-leaning politician running in an unambiguously favorable environment, his lack of a record was actually a strength. He had never raised taxes as a governor or voted for middle-class tax increases and large defense cuts as a Senator. His lack of a record allowed him to promise everything to everybody without anyone able to point to an Obama record that contradicted his promises. To think of a similar situation, imagine if the Republicans were running against a President Obama with his job approval ratings in the low 30s and the Republican platform was huge tax cuts for everybody + a balanced budget and all to be financed from the savings that would come from tort reform.
The Republicans in general, and Ryan in particular, are in almost the opposite situation. They aren't offering easy and cheap answers (well, other than Donald Trump.) They are proposing large spending cuts and major health policy reforms. Ryan is an excellent spokesman for those policies. He is informed, articulate and unflappable and doing a great job of spreading the word. The problem is that Ryan doesn't have much record implementing similar policies as an executive. Ryan's policies sound like a good idea when Ryan explains them, but they are ideas. Without an executive record, it is easier to paint Ryan the presidential candidate as a well meaning but ideologically intoxicated dreamer trying to peddle a bunch of think tank fantasies that will never work in the real world. Also the implications of the tax policies in his Roadmap would, by itself, be huge and possibly fatal weakness in an otherwise close presidential election. If anybody has a convincing rebuttal to the study in the link I would love to see it.
2. Which brings us to Mitch Daniels. His record as governor would put him in a stronger position to run on Ryan-type reforms. Daniels has cut spending while maintaining or even improving public services. He has instituted consumer-driven health care reforms that have saved the government money, increased workers' disposable income and maintained access to high quality health care. A record can make for a pretty good rebuttal.
Erin McPike thinks that Daniels has played the media beautifully so far. Maybe. He has gotten favorable profiles from National Review and the Weekly Standard. He gets favorable mentions from those portions of the liberal-leaning media that are not explicitly partisan. But those aren't the whole media. In the Republican presidential primaries, the populist conservative media is more important than National Review or the New York Times. But candidate quality is more important than the support of (or even opposition from) the populist conservative media. McCain got nominated despite sharp criticism from Limbaugh and National Review's support of Romney. Daniels is a much better ideological fit for the Republican primaries than was McCain. He has a better record as governor than Romney. I doubt he will win over everyone in the populist conservative media, but I could see him doing just fine on Hannity and Ingraham.