Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review shudder at reports that ISIS communications have advanced to the point that intelligence efforts to infiltrate have “gone dark” thanks in part to the revelations from Edward Snowden.  They also slam President Obama for moving full steam ahead with his plan to bring in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.  And they are glad to see University of Missouri police considering charges against the media professor who tried to stop the press from covering campus protests.

Are We Becoming More Polarized?

For my first post on Ricochet, I would like to propose the Approval Asymmetry Index (AAI), a simple measure of political polarization. Based on the Gallup Presidential Approval poll, it combines the support of members of the incumbent’s party (A) with non-approval from the opposition (B) and independents (C), all equally weighted. The formula [AAI = 0.5 × (A-B-C+100)] produces a number between 0 and 100, with higher values suggesting a greater divergence of opinion. Complete polarization (AAI = 100) would represent 100 percent approval from the incumbent party with 0 percent approval from all others. A president beloved by all would earn an AAI of 0, there being no asymmetry.

It should be appreciated that AAI is does not reflect simple popularity and so may help reveal factors obscured by the simple approval ratings scores that are generally reported. Inspection of past polling data revealed two things to me. First, the in-party tends to support their guy come hell or high water and the out-party generally withholds support, with independents being somewhere in between. This has been true since Truman, when the Gallup poll ostensibly started. Second, the approvals and disapprovals for more recent presidents, notably George W. Bush and Barack Obama, struck me as being rather different. Why?

My proposed formula produces an AAI of 50 when the president has 75 percent support from his party, only 25 percent from the opposition, and independent approval is 50 percent. Those numbers are not far from the long-term, 12-president mean values of 78, 32, and 51% (AAI = 48), respectively, so let’s consider an AAI of 50 to be “normal,” or at least “business as usual.” AAIs under 50 can occur when incumbents are either broadly popular (Eisenhower) or unpopular (Carter), and I hypothesize that AAIs well above 60 indicate a very polarized electorate.

GOP Not Yet There on Growth

The singular economic issue of our time is the quest for more rapid economic growth. In the past century the American economy grew at roughly 3.5 percent per year. That included huge booms and even worse busts, such as the Great Depression.

But over the past 15 years that growth has slumped to roughly 2 percent per annum. This has put average Americans in a cranky mood. They want change.

Though a list of current economic wrongs could go on forever, I see three major problems: an uncompetitive business tax code that blocks investment and job creation, a burdensome state-run regulatory apparatus, and an erratic monetary policy that has undermined the value of the dollar.

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review applaud Neil Cavuto’s dismantling of the free college arguments of the Million Student March.  They also sigh as some Republicans are still trying to find a path for Mitt Romney to join the race and save the party from the likes of Donald Trump and Ben Carson.  And they react to Donald Trump calling Iowans and other Americans “stupid” for believing Ben Carson’s personal story.

The Illegal Immigration Question I’d Like To Hear

True to form, Jeb Bush went full throttle into to the “we can’t possibly deport 11 million illegal immigrants” zone, and quoted a rate of 500,000 per month. To be honest, he makes a reasonable point. The logistics of it are near impossible.

An Airbus A380 variant flown by Emirates Air can seat 615 people, the largest passenger capacity of any airline. It would require 813 flights of these behemoths every month (i.e, 27 a day) to move that many people. There are only 173 A380’s in service. Jeb may have been exercising hyperbole to support his position, but he isn’t off the mark.

Additionally, identifying and locating that many illegal aliens each month is near impossible and we have no method of doing so now.

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review discuss the FBI expanding its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails to probe whether she or any aides made false statements, which is a felony.  They also slam MSNBC’s Chris Matthews for suggesting Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio aren’t Hispanic and are actually Cuban nationals.  And they unload on the University of Missouri protesters for claiming the first amendment right to free speech creates a hostile learning environment for them.

No, Rubio: The American Dream Is Not Universal

I’m a fan of Sen. Marco Rubio. He’s an impressive man, and really shines in debates. If he’s the GOP nominee, I’ll relish watching his performances against Hillary Clinton (recall that her only experience facing off with a good debater forced her to run for her first term in this cycle, instead of planning her presidential library at the end of her historic two terms).

Yet, in Tuesday night’s GOP debate on the Fox Business Network, I was struck by what Rubio said about the American Dream, rightly seen as a desire to live in a society of economic and personal liberty:

It’s a universal dream of a better life that people have all over the world.

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Ian Tuttle of National Review applaud the clear, direct questions in Tuesday’s debate and the substantive discussions that followed.  They also cringe as Donald Trump has to be told China is not part of TPP and discuss how Trump and Ben Carson tend to get quiet as the discussions get more detailed.  And they slam John Kasich for his belligerent personality and his liberal answers on everything from immigration to bank bailouts.

Fourth Debate Highlights

This was the first time candidates were taken off the stage, and while I thought Christie really shined in the past two debates, I can’t say I really missed him. So if anything, this is a sign more have to go. I speculate Kasich may be next: He’s become the angry, bitter version of Jon Huntsman.

Nothing breathtaking happened, but there were mild highlights.

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Ian Tuttle of National Review cheer the decision from a federal appeals court ruling that Pres. Obama did not have the authority to take unilateral action on immigration last year.  They also cringe as a Jeb Bush Super PAC targets Marco Rubio for being too pro-life.  And they unload on the insanity at the University of Missouri.

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Ian Tuttle of National Review cheer Ben Carson for calling out the media’s frothing pursuit of his record but also chide Carson for being sloppy with the facts on some key moments in his life.  They also shudder as Hillary Clinton suggests she would use the military much like President Obama does but take some solace in knowing she is probably lying.  And they slam Yale University for apologizing that students don’t have enough “safe spaces.”

Bill O’Reilly Channeling His Inner Donald Trump

Mr. O’Reilly loses it in this interview, asking questions, then refusing to allow George Will to speak, and finally repeatedly shouting insults at Will to keep him from speaking. “You are a hack!”

We Should Talk About Ben Carson

Having given Bernie Sanders and his supporters a lot of guff — and to to show that I’m more than just a partisan hack — I feel it’s necessary to point out to our side that we have the potential to once again demonstrate the truth behind the Republican Party’s unofficial motto There’s Nothing We Can’t Screw Up™.

The case in point is that of newly-minted Republican frontrunner Dr. Ben Carson. Carson is a fine and admirable man — perhaps unique in all the world for his skill with a scalpel — and, having read his book, the irrepressible nature of his optimism can’t be denied. But he’s nonetheless the flavor of the month for Republican Primary voters. Keep in mind that at this point four years ago, Herman Cain was the frontrunner and Newt Gingrich was about to spike. Anybody could develop some sort of alternate history fan-fiction about how things would have gone had either of these men remained the Republican front-runner, but both were, in the end, deeply flawed candidates for a variety of reasons. Dr. Carson is no different.

Carson’s story is uplifting and uniquely American, but those qualities do not grant you the judgment, cunning, and credibility to either seize or occupy the highest office in the land. Should he become the Republican nominee we would most likely be treated to a passel of strange stories which would surely disqualify Gentle Ben from holding high office. Here’s the latest example:

The Libertarian Podcast: “Republicans, Democrats, and 2016”

Does the rift in the Republican Party threaten to do permanent damage to the GOP? What are the consequences of the Democratic Party going full progressive? Can Paul Ryan get a restive House caucus under control? And where does our beloved classical liberal Professor Epstein fall in all of this? All those questions and more in this episode of The Libertarian podcast, examining the contours of the 2016 contest one year prior to Election Day. You can subscribe to the show via iTunes or listen in below.

There’s much going on in the world at the moment, and instead of bringing you a themed show, we thought we’d look to those whose writings on it we admire. And, of course, a little music.

First up to join is Bret Stephens, the Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign-affairs columnist at the Wall Street Journal. His latest book, America in Retreat, has been quite influential. He and Milt talk about ‘The Tyranny of a Big Idea‘.

What if Dick Cheney were to participate in the modern-day equivalent of the Frost-Nixon interviews? Now he has, in Cheney One on One: A Candid Conversation with America’s Most Controversial Statesman, by James Rosen of Fox News.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Rosen describes how he sat with Cheney for 10 hours as they talked about everything from the events of 9-11 to the former veep’s views of the Tea Party. Rosen also offers a unique theory on why Cheney is so disliked by so many liberals.

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review shudder as intelligence experts believe it’s likely ISIS or some other terrorist group smuggled a bomb onto the doomed Russian airliner.  They also scold Bernie Sanders for deciding now that Hillary’s emails are an issue for concern.  And they shake their heads at the massive protests of Donald Trump’s appearance on Saturday Night Live.  No podcast Friday.  We’ll be back Monday.

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review cheer the election of a conservative governor in Kentucky, the GOP holding the Virginia Senate and voters rejecting liberal initiatives in Houston and Ohio.  They also groan as TransCanada asks for its Keystone XL pipeline request to be to be postponed and they slam the Obama administration for its endless delay in deciding on the pipeline.  And they unload on the Department of Education for forcing an Illinois high school to allow a male who “identifies” as a female to dress and shower with the girls on his team.

Bevin’s Victory in Kentucky Sends Powerful Anti-Obamacare Message

Matt Bevin, Governor-elect of Kentucky.

We anticipated that Obamacare would be a huge issue in the Kentucky gubernatorial campaign, and believed the race could be won – despite only two Republicans prevailing since Truman —  if it was approached in a way to broaden the base.

Reelection of Mayor Bruce Harris Reveals Much about Republicans and Democrats

Congratulations to my town’s mayor, Bruce Harris, who was re-elected yesterday. In 2012, he was nominated by our governor for a spot on the state’s Supreme Court.

Harris is a graduate of Amherst College and Yale Law School. He also happens to be gay and African-American. His appointment to the court was blocked by Democrats. Can you guess why?

They cited his lack of courtroom experience. (Absurd, because many judges and justices lack such experience before being appointed.)