Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Osawatomie's Dichotomies

Near the conclusion of his big speech in Kansas this week, President Obama praised business leaders who understand "their obligations don't just end with their shareholders." The president singled out Marvin Windows and Doors, based in Warroad, Minnesota, for not laying off a single employee during the recession, and choosing instead to cut the pay and perks of both workers and management.

This section of the speech is apparently based on a recent New York Times article about the company, one which complicates some of Obama's arguments, however, and highlights other things he declined to address:

1. Marvin Windows and Doors has the latitude to consider obligations beyond those to its shareholders because it doesn't have shareholders. The 107-year-old company is privately held: the president is the founder's granddaughter and her brother is the chief executive. The firm's work force of 4,300 included 16 members of the Marvin family.

2. Marvin also doesn't have, apparently, any obligations to unions; its workers don't seem to belong to any. When housing starts - and orders for new windows and doors - plummeted, management cut salaries by 5 percent, put hourly workers on 32-hour weeks, stopped paying tuition reimbursement, stopped allowing employees to cash in unused vacation days, and encouraged them to take unpaid leaves. Through attrition, the workforce is 14 percent smaller than at its housing-boom peak. The only things the company hasn't cut are jobs and health insurance benefits. There's not a hint in the Times article of any of these changes being voted on or negotiated with anyone - all appear to have been the owners' unilateral decisions.

3. Indeed, there were only two brief mentions of labor unions in Obama's Kansas speech, both treating their decline as an accomplished fact rather than a reversible one. (If "you're somebody whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or by someone in another country, you don't have a lot of leverage when it comes to asking your employer for better wages or better benefits, especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union." And, "The truth is we'll never be able to compete with other countries when it comes to who's best at letting their businesses pay the lowest wages, who's best at busting unions, who's best at letting companies pollute as much as they want." The president doesn't exclude the possibility that we could still be well-above-average at busting unions.)

4. If President Obama thinks cutting pay and benefits is morally superior to laying people off during a downturn, he could have shown his enthusiasm for this idea by using the enormous leverage his administration wielded over General Motors and Chrysler in 2009 and 2010 to insist on significant pay cuts and benefit reductions for their UAW hourly employees as a condition of taxpayer bailouts of those companies. Instead, he didn't even demand small, symbolic reductions.

5. The communitarianism of the Marvin company comes with baggage, according to the Times. The firm dominates the tiny town of Warroad: Another sibling of the two who run the company is the mayor, and the family or the company built the public library, senior center and high school's swimming pool. (The headquarters includes a visitors' center and museum displaying a lock of the founder's hair.) The noblesse oblige that comes with the no-layoffs policy is paternalistic and also, for modern Americans who like the advantages of contingency in many areas of their lives, more than a little claustrophobic. Whether the Marvin company model is a template for the future or a quaint relic is at the very least, an open question.

6. The Marvin company seems to have captured the spirit of the share economy, but not solved its dilemmas.  The company president says she is taking the "long view" by not cutting Marvin's "life blood," the "skills and experience" of its employees. But it's not clear, in the long view, whether that will turn out to be a good business decision. If we're talking about skilled or semi-skilled positions, some employees will have more skills and experience than others. A more cold-hearted company might have decided to reduce employee costs by laying off the 25 percent of the employees who were least skilled rather than reducing the compensation of every employee, from the most to the least skilled, by 25 percent. Figuring out, in theory, which company - Scrooge, Inc. or Benevolent Enterprises - will be more competitive isn't easy, and it will be important to analyze the empirical evidence that comes in over the years from Marvin and its competitors. Some Marvin employees, despite their gratitude for the no-layoffs policy, are leaving the company and the town for more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. Are these exiles a representative sample, or does their ambition and attractiveness to other employers suggest that they are in the more-skilled part of the company's bell curve? If the latter, the company is harming itself by refusing to differentiate among employees whose contributions are most valuable, in favor of treating all of them well, but identically. Both Mickey Kaus and Clive Crook raised doubts about the coherence and feasibility of what Kaus called Obama's "charity capitalism." Even the proffered business rationale for Marvin's no-layoffs policy might make more sense as a philanthropic one.

Categories > Economy


In Lieu of a Constitutionalist

David Brooks tries to make the case against Gingrich and winds up moderating him in many ways.   Moreover, he raises salient issues in the contest between him and Romney:  Gingrich probably does see a continuity between himself, TR, and Hamilton.  But is there a constitutionalist in the house?  If not, is a right-wing Progressive better than a competent manager?  Which would bring us back to founding principles?

TR rejected natural rights in favor of a new, collective nationalism, while Hamilton was clear in basing the emerging new republic on natural rights.  I haven't seen this concern in Gingrich but rather more a kind of Newt nationalism.  How that bears on the Declaration and the Constitution is the issue conservatives face.

E.J. Dionne plays his role exquisitely, showing the link between TR and Obama, though he gets FDR wrong in the process:  FDR had laid out his revolutionary strategy in his 1932 campaign, in his speech on Progressive Liberalism

Categories > Presidency

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Timothy Steele

I just discovered what a sapphic is.  From Timothy Steel:


Angered, may I be near a glass of water;
May my first impulse be to think of Silence,
Its deities (who are they? do, in fact, they
    Exist? etc.).

May I recall what Aristotle says of
The subject: to give vent to rage is not to
Release it but to be increasingly prone
   To its incursions.

May I imagine being in the Inferno,
Hearing it asked: "Virgilio mio, who's
That sulking with Achilles there?" and hearing
   Virgil say: "Dante,

That fellow, at the slightest provocation,
Slammed phone receivers down, and waved his arms like
A madman. What Attila did to Europe,
   What Genghis Khan did

To Asia, that poor dope did to his marriage."
May I, that is, put learning to good purpose,
Mindful that melancholy is a sin, though
   Stylish at present.

Better than rage is the post-dinner quiet,
The sink's warm turbulence, the streaming platters,
The suds rehearsing down the drain in spirals
   In the last rinsing.

For what is, after all, the good life save that
Conducted thoughtfully, and what is passion
If not the holiest of powers, sustaining
   Only if mastered. 


A Fistful of Zloty and Crowns

The Czech and Slovak Republics offer an interesting perspective on the European monetary union. Slovakia adopted the euro in 2009, whereas Czech's plans to exchange the Ceska Koruna (Czech Crown) for the euro has been delayed indefinitely. The amicably divorced partners of the former Czechoslovakia thus allow for an interesting comparison.

Slovakia's decision to join the continental currency was deeply lamented when the poorer Slovakia was forced to pay into the Greek bailout fund - a payment for which Czech was not obliged. The Czech prime minister noted: "We can all see how the monetary union is turning into a transfer union or even a debt union."

But this incident simply added insult to injury. The fiscal limitations of a transnational currency have adversely affected Slovakia's economy, whereas the relative flexibility of the crown has allowed Czech to adapt with greater ease and efficiency. This is a condition writ large across Europe. While ostensibly favoring inclusion in the EU, former Warsaw nations regard adoption of the euro as a suicide pact. Writing primarily of Poland's avoidance of the economic pains in Europe, Gordon Fairclough notes in today's WSJ:

Across Central and Eastern Europe, the story is much the same. Governments from Hungary to Bulgaria that once clamored to join the euro club are putting plans on hold and reassessing the costs and benefits of something that used to seem inevitable. The spread of the euro was seen as part of Europe's manifest destiny, and the countries that emerged from behind the Iron Curtain saw the adoption of the currency as a potent sign of success, both political and economic.

The change of heart is an ominous portent for the decades-long process of increasing European economic integration. The common currency is the centerpiece and the leading symbol of that integration. If enthusiasm wanes for the euro, boosters fear, this could spell trouble for other efforts to knit the nations of the Continent together.

Moreover, economies like Poland's and the Czech Republic's are the kind that euro-zone leaders want to bring into their currency union--competitive, with low debt and strong growth prospects.

Czechs believe that a second reason for the diminished economic crisis in central Europe is cultural. Unlike Italians, Greeks and the like, they (and their governments) did not spend lavishly, incur unsustainable debt and expect that rainy days would never arrive. They regard the euro fund as terminally undisciplined and cherish their national economic autonomy.

I have long argued that the New Europe will soon shift the center of gravity away from western powers. But whether this New Europe will remain a union is being decided now by those western powers. Continued fiscal imprudence threatens not only Europe's economic integrity, but its political cohesion.

Categories > Economy


Iowahawk on Obama's Speech

David Burge (Iowahawk) takes to Twitter to summarize President Obama's speech in Kansas: "The only thing we have to fear is a big stick tearing down this wall divided against itself" #PresidentEverybodyButMe
Categories > Politics


Colonel Obama

The Democratic Party chief's  Osawatomie speech continues to reverberate, but the commentariat still doesn't quite get how radical it is.  Daniel Henninger correctly labels it Obama's "Godfather speech"--"what you'd expect to hear in Caracas or Buenos Aires." But even this doesn't bring out how it builds on Theodore Roosevelt's revolutionary "New Nationalism" speech, delivered 101 years ago, celebrating both the Civil War and the terrorist John Brown.  That radicalism is well-summarized in this introductory essay.  Obama's speech multiplies the possibilities, including TR's proposal for a "Federal Bureau of Corporations."  Try also Sidney Milkis's remarkable study that emphasizes the 1912 campaign.

UPDATE:  NRO's commentary has some telling comparisons and contrasts between BHO and TR.

Categories > Presidency

Foreign Affairs

Learning From Pearl Harbor

Herewith my annual plea that Roberta Wohlstetter's 1962 classic study, Pearl Harbor, be read by anyone interested in strategy, intelligence, and the post-9/11 world.  (Here's a link to the googlebooks version.)  As in 9/11, as Wohlstetter shows, U.S. leaders and military knew something was up, but the different "signals" were misinterpreted or not shared with other parts of the government.  And unanticipated Japanese technological progress (combined with boldness) made possible a stunning attack.  Try to track down her study of the Cuban missile crisis as well.

As I write this, I recall that the book was first called to my attention by the late Claremont professor Bill Rood.  It would be fitting if this and Roberta Wohlstetter's other work were recalled at the 2012 APSA at the Claremont Institute panels.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Fortuño for the GOP?

Among a range of up-and-coming Latino leaders in the Republican Party is the relatively-unknown, fairly experienced, and ambitious Luis Fortuño, governor of Puerto Rico, and his name is beginning to make the circles as a potential nominee for the Vice Presidency next year. The Georgetown and University of Virginia-educated lawyer served four years as Puerto Rico's representative in Congress, where he held the chairmanship of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and is a member of the National Republican Committee. Prior to that he oversaw Puerto Rico's tourism industry and served as Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce. He was elected governor in 2009, and is currently the leader of the Southern Governors' Association and the Council of State Governments, as well as an Obama nominee to the bipartisan Council of Governors. His governorship has been marked by slashing the size of government and pushing a pro-growth economic agenda.

While his nomination would be a long-shot, choosing the governor of this far-southeastern territory makes more sense than having chosen the governor of that far-northwestern state. Youthful and eloquent, he could bring to the table a particular knowledge of problems in our own hemisphere as he must work frequently with our neighbors in the Caribbean. He could also help usher in a new conservative coalition in the country, and he seems to be interested in doing just that. Governor Fortuño is surely going to be someone to watch in coming years and, perhaps, next year.
Categories > Elections


Day of Infamy

Today is the remembrance of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Like all such days of remembrance, it is a thanksgiving to those who sacrificed on our behalf and a caution that the worst of man's history may not yet be behind us. December 7, 1941 changed the course of human history. Other dates of infamy have done likewise - September 11, 2001 immediately comes to mind.

I was a bit disappointed, though not surprised, that U.S. media coverage in Asia nearly ignored the date and the highest ranking "news" article for Pearl Harbor on google included "truther"-style articles asking, "Who was really to blame?" It's a connection between FRD and Bush which I hadn't previously noted - and won't spend much time entertaining. Rather, I believe FDR's words in the wake of the event (compare to Bush's speech after 9-11) provide the most relevant testimony of the event:

Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

Categories > History


Obama's Osawatomie Talk

Here is the whole of it and here is yesterday's Letter from an Ohio Farmer ("Ceasars and Presidents"), sent out about an hour before Obama spoke and, ironically, it is directly related; it uses the 1912 election to make a few points that are directly relevant to the Osawatomie speech.
I think this is an important speech. It revives hope and change, but makes it better, revives him as an angry populist who thinks that the United States--rightly understood--really begins with the Progressive movement; and explains why they all think Progressive, New Deal, Great Society legislation is more sacrosanct than the Constitution.  The purpose of government has changed.  The meaning of equality and liberty has changed.  If I were a Republican running for the presidency I would reply to this (and to Teddy's 1910 Osawatomie talk) as soon as I could.  This is a great opportunity.
Categories > Elections

Pop Culture

Art as Monkey-Business

Abstract art is easy to denigrate and abuse. But sometimes one must wonder if the folks who report on the laughable craft truly appreciate its many ironies. Today, CNN "reports on an unusual Canadian artist whose vivid abstracts are making a big splash." The artist, of course, is a painting monkey. He's a hit in the art world and is presently opening his first exhibition in Toronto. (You can't make this stuff up.)

Earlier in the year, a study was celebrated by the artistic community as confirming the objective worth of abstraction. Participants in the study were shown works of abstract art by celebrated artists and works by ... monkeys. 

The non-art majors preferred the artists 56% of the time, whereas the art majors preferred them 62% of the time. When it came to judging what was art (i.e., "better"), the non-art majors picked the artists a whopping 65.5% of the time, only slightly topped (67.5%) by the art majors. "In the aesthetic domain," the researchers concluded, "people can recognize that a work is good, but still not like it." In other words, people might dislike abstract art, but they can still tell when it belongs in a museum versus a kindergarten or a zoo. (You can take a version of the test here.)

While the distinction between personal preferences and artistic aesthetics deserves closer appraisal, that is for another day. At the moment, I'd simply point out the incredibly low standard of the art community - when only slightly above half of the general population prefers the craft of a professional, master abstract artist to the work of a monkey, it requires a particularly skewered perspective to claim victory. Even the artistic community can only identify their own work about two-thirds of the time.

I actually appreciate the impressionist movement's visual critique of the cold, heartless propensities to which realism was susceptible. The origins of abstraction were noble and timely - but the point of the movement might just as poignantly been summed up in a few journal articles and op-ed pieces. The point was to sacrifice craft for meaning, perfection for emotion - they were intentionally suppressing the prevailing obsession with procedural skill in order to expose a painting's soul. They wanted to breathe life into art again.

The heirs of the movement lack the underlying and verifying skill which provided their predecessors with credibility, just as they lack an appreciation of aesthetics capable of appealing to an unpretentious soul. Scripture defines man as "only a little lower than the angels" and the ancient Greek concept of metaxy locates man between beasts and gods. By these standards, the abstract artist's craft seems to be quite a bit lower than that of the angels and heavily favoring the beast side of the god-beast ledger. It has been argued that a monkey with a typewriter and an infinite amount of time would produce Shakespeare. That may be true, but it seems a monkey with a paint brush can produce abstract art in a matter of minutes. 

Categories > Pop Culture



"There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly." Thus were the last words of Marcus Tullius Cicero, who bowed his head in a gladiatorial gesture to ease the task of his assassination, which was ordered by the Second Triumvirate of Rome. At the time Cicero was the most popular of the Romans, and the public did their best to hide him as the Triumvirate's soldiers scoured the Italian countryside. He was finally betrayed by one of his brother's slaves while he was trying to flee to join Brutus and Cassius. It is said that Octavian Caesar argued with Mark Antony for two days to spare Cicero from proscription, but Antony would not budge. His hatred for the silver-tongued Cicero was such that he had the orator's head, hands, and tongue nailed to the doors of the Senate house--the only individual of the many murdered by the Triumvirate to suffer such a fate. It is also worth noting that in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Cicero (who, despite having few lines, is nonetheless greatly important to the plot by helping to reveal the character of both Brutus and Rome) is the only person killed by the proscriptions to be lamented by Brutus and Cassius.

The writings of Cicero had a tremendous impact on the Renaissance and the American Founding; John Adams once said, "As all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined than Cicero, his authority should have great weight." Indeed. For those interested in the statesman's life, I highly recommend Anthony Everitt's Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician. Fantastic biography of he who died at the hands of Antony's henchmen on December 7, 43 BC.
Categories > History

Foreign Affairs

NAACP v. America

In its continuing campaign against Voter ID laws, and other laws, the NAACP has appealed to the United Nations.

The largest civil rights group in America, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), is petitioning the UN over what it sees as a concerted efforted to disenfranchise black and Latino voters ahead of next year's presidential election. . . .

According to The Guardian, the group complains that "34 states have introduced a requirement that voters carry photo ID cards on the day of the election itself."  Voter ID and other laws, such as laws that strip felons of the vote, at least for a time, are an affront to democracy, according to the NAACP:

Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP's president, said the moves amounted to "a massive attempt at state-sponsored voter suppression." He added that the association will be urging the UN "to look at what is a co-ordinated campaign to disenfranchise persons of colour."

So the NAACP is appealing to a non-democratic institution, and is attacking the American legal system, and American sovereignty, in the name of democracy?  How democratic do they think the world would be if the UN ran it?

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Obama the Rough Rider (Updated X2)

Osawatamie Obama replays TR's "New Nationalism" speech. One appreciates the radicalism and subtlety of both in comparing the two speeches. For more on the radicalism of TR's speech, see this brief commentary. But Obama is doubling down on TR's Progressivism and demand for the nationalization of everyday life, while playing off of TR's 1910 Civil War reunion setting and the John Brown terrorism. Obama's speech is his now-familiar schoolyard bully pulpit of accusing Republicans of making arguments they have never advanced concerning class favoritism. (But a more extreme version worked for Harry Truman in 1948.) I fully expect Obama to endorse, as TR did in 1910, a "Federal Bureau of Corporations"--to offset the Citizens United case. Republicans make matters easier for Obama when they emphasize their tax cut argument, as though they agree with Democrats that general prosperity depends on the tax structure. Just as Progressives succeeded in their crusade against corporate interests, Obama channels their radicalism in his, well masked by the engaging persona of the Rough Rider.

UPDATE: Here's a money quote (italics added):

It's a simple theory [trickle down] - one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. It fits well on a bumper sticker. Here's the problem: It doesn't work. It's never worked. It didn't work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It's not what led to the incredible post-war boom of the 50s and 60s. And it didn't work when we tried it during the last decade.

Obama ignores the New Deal and the Great Society. He is laying the ground for further waves of Progressivism, probably by executive order, given the likelihood of Republican control of Congress.  

Categories > Presidency


Noonan v. Frum?

David Frum last summer:

In this debt-ceiling fight, I'm having horrible flashbacks to the Republican debacle over health care.

Then as now, what could have been a negotiated deal turned into all-out political war.

Then as now, Republicans rejected all concessions by the president as pathetically inadequate.

Then as now, Republicans refused any concessions of their own, instead demanding that the president yield totally to their way of thinking.

Then as now, Republicans convinced themselves that they had the clout to force the president to yield.

With health care, Republicans calculated spectacularly wrong.

Peggy Noonan last weekend:

Once again the president thought he was playing a shrewd game: The collapse of the super committee would serve his political purposes. Once again he misjudged.

What has occurred is an exact repeat of the summer's debt ceiling fiasco. Then the president summoned a crisis, thinking people would blame it on the Republicans. Instead they blamed Washington, which is to say him, because he owns Washington. Immediately his numbers fell. As they did again this week.

Categories > Journalism


Senate Declines to Clarify Domestic War Powers

In another example of the unambitious character of the United States Senate today, there has been a decision to not make a decision about what limits ought to be placed on the war powers of the President in regards to American citizens. The Senate passed a major defense bill and voted 99-1 to make it clear that they were not taking a stand on the currently-ambigious rules around citizen detention. In the same thinking of "We have to pass the bill to find out what's in it", Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) said that "We make clear that whatever the law is, it is unaffected by this language in our bill." Whatever the law is. Yes, our lawmakers do not even know what current law is regarding the right of the Executive Branch to detain or execute American citizens on American soil without any due process or review.

Proponents of great powers for the Executive in war argue that we are now in a state of war and that the president has both the authority and the responsibility to exert his power to defend us. The problem is, though, that the Bush Administration turned its authorization to use force against Al Qaeda and those responsible for 9/11 into a general and ambiguous war on Terror itself, leaving it as open-ended and vague as the War on Drugs and the War on Poverty-- though much more dangerous, as it involves the Executive Branch using lethal force. There were no parameters set by either President Bush or Congress to define our goals, and thus the "War on Terror" is now the longest-running conflict in the republic's history. The Obama Administration has assassinated two Americans on different occasions so far this year--terrorist suspect al-Maliki and his teenage son--in the Middle East. There is an argument to be made in al-Maliki's case that they were enemy combatants in an active war zone, and thus the President was authorized to kill him. The current question is whether the Executive Branch has the power to executive or permanently detain in military jails American citizens who are suspected terrorists on American soil itself. This seems to be in conflict with both Posse Comitatus and Sections 2 and 3 of Article III of the Constitution. 

We are fighting a new kind of war, that has been left open-ended for two presidencies now. It is hard to tell the difference between war time and peace time. If Congress is unready to yet figure out its role in when to decide when it is peace time and war time (since they have obviously decided to abscond from being involved in warmaking altogether, as evidenced by the Libyan intervention), they should at least look into what limits the President has on him within our own borders. We need clarification. The lawmakers need to do their jobs and decide what the law is.
Categories > Congress


Impure Thoughts

Sorry I've been away.  I've been trying to keep my NLT commenting free from intra-Republican primary fighting and instead focus on policy, but the Republican primary stuff has been monopolizing my political thinking lately.  Anyway, the distinction only exists in my head so here are some thoughts on the passing scene:

1.  Romney is getting testy with questions about his flip-flops and his support of Romneycare.  I can see why Romney is upset.  Romney has been getting asked these questions for five years.  If there isn't a statute of limitations on these issues, maybe there should be a statute of limitations on focusing on these issues.  Seriously, is there any likely Republican primary voter who doesn't know that Romney flip-flopped and supports a state-level health insurance purchase mandate for Massachusetts?  this has to be especially frustrating since Romney is watching Gingrich surge even though Gingrich has flip-flopped on a FEDERAL health insurance mandate (hey isn't that unconstitutional?) and cap-and-trade.  Gingrich has been out of electoral politics for thirteen years.  Large swaths of the electorate haven't been paying much attention to what Gingrich has been saying and doing during this time.  How come Gingrich's flip-flops aren't the story?

2.  Well I can't feel too bad for Romney.  Romney's argument that Romneycare was right for Massachusetts but Obama's national Romneycare was wrong for America (as a matter of policy rather than constitutionality) doesn't really work.  He has never really explained why he thinks a policy regime of guaranteed issue, community rating, health insurance coverage mandates and a health insurance purchase mandate (all policy similarities between Romneycare and Obamacare) is a good one for a state.  Romney doesn't even admit all the similarities.  He is just trying to wait out public attention.  Good on Bret Baier and FOX News for continuing to dig. 

3.  The good news for Romney is that life is about to get a lot more fair.  Gingrich's flip-flops are real, significant, and recent (they've come after his career as Speaker.)  Gingrich also has the habit of telling spectacular and easily verifiable lies.  He said that Freddie Mac paid him to $300,000 in 2006 to give advice as a "historian" and that he told them that their business model was fatally flawed.  Well it turns out that Gingrich was extravagantly praising the Freddie Mac business model in 2007 and was warning Congress about regulations that might change how Freddie Mac operated.  During last night's Huckabee candidate forum, Gingrich asserted that he had never been in favor of cap-and-trade.  Liar.

Gingrich's rise has been fueled by his debate performances, but those performances have had a dynamic that won't exist from now on.  The other candidates allowed Gingrich to tell of the debate questioners and otherwise perform the Newt Gingrich genius/statesman act with little criticism and the resulting pressure.  Gingrich has the target on his back now. 

Gingrich is in a tough position.  A large fraction of the electorate has a vague or nonexistent idea of how conservative Gingrich hasn't been over the years.  Many of those who do know about Gingrich's flip-flops and sleazy (political) dealings console themselves that Gingrich is an invincible debater and, even if Gingrich is dirty, we need a dirty guy to beat Obama and the Chicago machine.  All of that is over now.  The other candidates aren't going to give Gingrich the space to deflect questions with his "how dare you irresponsible Washington journalists cheapen this process by asking us about our records and policies" act.  It is in the interests of all the other candidates (maybe other than Huntsman) to hit Gingrich constantly and from every direction.  As Ron Paul showed, there are a lot of ways to hit Gingrich.  This will of course increase public knowledge about Gingrich's flip-flops and weaken his support from those who want a more authentically conservative alternative to Romney.  I also suspect Gingrich won't end up looking that good under sustained attack.  Gingrich under pressure isn't a very pretty sight.

I don't see Gingrich holding on to his current level of support until the January 3 Iowa Caucuses.  Where that support goes is anybody's guess.   

h/t to Peter Schramm and John Moser for a couple of the links.              
Categories > Politics