Democratic Debate: Better Than Expected

 

shutterstock_236564839My impression is that it wasn’t that bad. Anderson Cooper’s questions were focused, clear, fair, and got to issues that are important to the country and the Democratic base. I was actually surprised by some of the back and forth on a few of the questions. Jim Webb gave some very solid and non-orthodox answers on affirmative action and climate change, which I was shocked to hear from a Democrat (and so was the audience, I think). When gun control came up, there was a real split among the candidates, with Sanders and Webb on one side and the rest of the field on the other. I was even impressed that Sanders defended a gun shop owner from being held liable for following the law. I was also surprised that Sanders gave Hillary a complete pass on her email scandal, but I guess that no one actually cares that much about Democratic corruption in the Democratic race.

Now, on to Clinton, who was okay, so long as she avoided laughing. She was very evasive on all foreign policy issues, and I’m not sure I understand what she thinks is going on in the world, let alone what should be done about it. Her explanation of Libya was an amazing non-answer: essentially, we did it because everyone wanted us to do it, and that was it. No acknowledgement that the place has gone down the toilet. I don’t recall anyone challenging her on that, which is surprising given how quick everyone was to complain about Iraq, and Libya is Iraq with less forethought and follow through. Basically, I gathered that Hillary will do what ever is popular in foreign policy be it bomb, retreat, or ignore. Which is, I guess, what I expected.

I was surprised by how strongly Webb feels about China; so strongly, that he jumped 5,000 miles during an answer about Syria to talk about the South China Sea. I thought he was going to promise to declare war on them right then and there. No one really seemed to talk much about Putin or Russia except Sanders, who is buying into the newest trend on the Left of applauding Putin’s self-inflicted wounds of conquering the Crimea, invading Eastern Ukraine, and moving on to Syria. I guess the final master stroke will be to get him to invade Poland. Then, his number will finally be up. The Russian people will hold him accountable just like they did with… what was the name of that Russian leader that was held accountable by the Russian people? I can’t wait for a sane and competent Republican to ream them over this. The bottom line is that all the candidates on the stage would have no policy towards Russia other then letting Putin do whatever he wants.

They’re both here!  Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review enjoy reading how Hillary Clinton’s closest supporters think she’s a mediocre candidate who repeats the same mistakes and wasn’t ready for the 2016 campaign.  They also slam the Jeb Bush volunteer who confronted Donald Trump on Monday with left-wing talking points and note how Trump sullied a good response with another Twitter attack.  And they unload on the U.S. official in Russia who responded to the Dutch conclusion that a Russian-made missile destroyed a commercial airliner last year by saying there was too much focus on assigning blame.

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Ian Tuttle of National Review are pleased to see Martin O’Malley become the first of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic rivals to take some shots at her.  They also cringe as an employee fired from the House Benghazi Committee claims the panel is bent on destroying Hillary Clinton.  And they fume as Iran’s sham court convicts Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.

Why the Fracas in the House Is Good News, Not Bad News

 

shutterstock_225535513Writing over at National Review, Brother Kevin Williamson gets it just exactly right, yet again. An excerpt:

What really has the salon set shaking its head is that the Republican party, which has within it a steep disagreement about tactics, priorities, pace, and style, has decided to settle some of those questions through an authentic democratic process. There is, apparently, going to be a real race for the speaker’s gavel, rather than a negotiated settlement among party leaders organized around the question of whose turn it is. A real democratic fight instead of a backroom party-machine process — that is what CNN calls a House in chaos.

Well, bring on the chaos.

Ryan and Reconciliation Is a Powerful Combination

 
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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, March 6, 2014.Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

As of this writing House Ways and Means chairman Paul Ryan has not decided whether to run for Speaker. He has been bombarded by all the Republican factions. Even Mitt Romney says the Wisconsinite can unify the Republican conference and take the job. I applaud Ryan’s leadership and policy skills and think he would make a good speaker.

Ricochet GOP Poll Results

 

September has been quite an interesting month for the GOP nomination race — and for the Ricochet primary. I think the changes have been unsurprising, since we’re seeing previous second- and third-tier candidates moving up. It seems Ricochet members are pretty set about their preferences and honest about it.

Here’s how the top choice breaks down:

Today, John, Paul and Scott got together for Episode 27 of the Power Line Show. They were joined by former federal prosecutor Bill Otis, and discussed the criminal justice “reform” bill that is being rushed through the Senate.

If you have wondered whether it is really a good idea to let a lot of convicted felons out of federal prisons on the ground that their drug dealing was “non-violent,” this conversation will answer that question. The rest of the hour was taken up with the big news story of the day, the GOP House’s effort to come up with a speaker. Once again, I plaintively posed the question: where in the Constitution does it say that the Senate minority gets to dictate federal spending?

How Would You React to a Coalition Majority in the House?

 

Now that Kevin McCarthy has dropped out of the running to be Speaker John Boehner’s replacement, and given the lack of any clear alternative (who actually wants the job?), some are floating the the idea of a coalition:

One crossover vote — from one member, in one election — does not a precedent make. But Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA) nonetheless told CNN minutes after McCarthy withdrew, to elect the next Speaker “we [may] have to assemble a bipartisan coalition, that’s the reality of this place.”

A Real Deal

 

imageWe’ve come to think of compromise as splitting the baby. Comprehensive immigration reform, for example, is a particularly good example of this sort of bad compromise: Republicans agree to an amnesty now, Democrats pretend they’ll do a better job of enforcing immigration laws in the future, and we pretend to believe them. I agree that’s awful, and we can’t do that sort of thing anymore.

What I propose is more like a trade: we get something we want, they get something they want, both at the same time.

For example:

Thought Experiment: Congress for the White House?

 

white-congIf you were given the choice, would you accept winning the White House in 2016 at the cost of losing both houses of Congress? For the sake of argument, assume the numbers for Congress would mirror what they are right now.

Please give a “yes” or a “no” as the first word of your answer, followed by as much explanation as you see fit. If you’re 51% in favor of the proposition and 49% against, that’s a “yes.” Explain, if you wish, after your answer.

Note: this is not about the interaction between different slots on the ticket or any of that. Never mind about a proposed mechanism — there isn’t one.

Having My Fill

 

GOPCOM

Nice little email box ya got there… It would be a shame if anything happened to it. I mean we could fill the thing up hourly…  This morning’s beg-a-thon letter from the Grand Old Party: GOPFRaising

Such a deal! The GOP is now the equivalent of the squeegee guy at the intersection promising to leave me alone if I just give him twenty bucks.

What Happened to Jindal?

 

In this kind of campaign, it’s little surprise that Gov. Bobby Jindal is not playing well nationally. I further understand that his in-state approval ratings has dropped; that can happen in politics when you try to jump from one job to another. But I’ve seen nothing in the national media to put any context to this poll that puts Jindal in 8th place (with a scant 3 percent of the vote), behind Carson (23 percent), Trump (19 perfect), Bush (10 percent), Rubio (9 percent), Fiorina (7 percent), Cruz (6 percent), and Huckabee (4 percent) in Louisiana.

A Litmus Test for GOP Leadership

 

shutterstock_225535513A big topic of conversation in the Beltway and beyond is the new Republican leadership elections scheduled for next week. While most are asking who will replace Boehner’s team, the more important question is what will they do differently?

There’s a great opportunity for new GOP leadership to differentiate themselves, which will start the process of taking advantage of their majorities in both houses. It’s past time for Republicans to move legislation that Democrats can’t duck and that will advance our strategic interests and policy goals, and it’s what Americans want to see Republicans do.

As I recently wrote in The Hill, here’s the most effective one:

A Brief Primer on Japanese Politics

 

Tokyo skylineThere’s a deep sense of disillusionment and malaise here in Japan. Perhaps, rather than sleeping through politics, the country is just ignoring it. Remember the 80s, when this country was going to take over the world? Many people (including me) spent that decade learning Japanese in school, preparing for a future when we’d need language skills to impress our bosses.

As it happened, I did need it. But that’s just me. For the rest of the Western world, the takeover got lost in two decades of Japanese economic recession and general stagnation. The economy has been so sluggish — and for so long — that it’s hardly even a political issue any more. Successive governments have pulled so many levers, pumped so much new currency into the economy, that it’s like watching one of those movie scenes where a character continues to perform violent CPR on some lifeless unfortunate, with ever more desperation, while everyone stands around pitying them.

What Happened?

It’s (Well Past) Time to Worry about Sanders

 

Bernie SandersSen. Bernie Sanders raised $26 million in Q3, and from 650,000 individuals. This is only $2 million less than Clinton raised in Q3, and the broad base of support means he’ll be able to raise more in the future. Sanders stands a great chance to win in Iowa and New Hampshire, and would get further bumps in support from these wins. I don’t see his supporters switching to Clinton, but as the scandals continue, I can see Clinton supporters looking elsewhere. Also, in 2007, Edwards was in the race, which lowered Clinton’s support. When Biden enters, the pattern will repeat.

Sanders is drawing huge amounts of small-dollar donations via the Web. That means two important things: (1) Sanders has been able to concentrate on meeting and greeting potential voters rather than spending his time courting donors, and (2) He has been able to conserve money because he isn’t spending cash on lavish events for donors.

There’s a very significant chance Sanders wins the nomination. This is the year for outsiders. He’s got energy, momentum, and is less vulnerable to character assassination than Clinton. At the very least, we have to stop taking it for granted that our nominee will be facing Clinton in the general.

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review explain why Hillary Clinton is an an increasingly difficult position as more classified emails are released and why her “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” defense is politically unwise.  We also rip House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for suggesting the House Benghazi Committee was about damaging Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.  And we marvel at the new movie that still claims Dan Rather was telling the truth about the George W. Bush national guard documents that are proven forgeries.

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review enjoy watching liberals get a shock from reports that Pope Francis met with and supported embattled Kentucky clerk Kim Davis.  They also slam the Obama administration for outsourcing Middle East policy to the Russians.  And they have fun with the Trey Gowdy rumors, ranging from a movement to draft him into leadership to rumblings that he will retire.

Nancy Pelosi Gets It. Will We?

 

Smarter than she soundsLong story very short: the president will almost always beat the speaker. To win the presidency, the Right needs not barn-burners but fire discipline. To understand the Boehner fiasco — and for conservatives, it has been a fiasco of our own making — we need to understand a bit of history. We need some perspective, and it would help to start with the first modern speaker, Tip O’Neill.

Tip O’Neill reinvented the House of Representatives. Previous Speakers, like Sam Rayburn, had been effective because they were able to put together large bipartisan coalitions to pass bills. But O’Neill put a partisan stamp on the House: he weakened the committee chairs and did his best to pass bills on party lines. O’Neill’s revolution wasn’t widely understood at the time, however, because O’Neill usually lost legislative battles to President Reagan. Why? Because when the president and speaker fight, the president nearly always wins. The president speaks with one voice, while the speaker frequently gets drowned out by the loudest and dumbest members of his caucus. National Review was right to note that Tip O’Neill shut down the government, but Stiles forgot to mention that O’Neill mostly lost those battles to Reagan.

Newt Gingrich continued the trend that O’Neill started. Gingrich liked to compare himself to British Prime Ministers, who very nearly elected dictators. But when Gingrich tried shutting down the government, the blowback forced him to yield to President Clinton. In Lessons Learned the Hard Way, Gingrich made a rueful admission: