In Which You Answer David Brooks’s Question


shutterstock_128966351David Brooks in today’s New York Times:

The most surprising event of this political era is what hasn’t happened. The world has not turned left. Given the financial crisis, widening inequality, the unpopularity of the right’s stances on social issues and immigration, you would have thought that progressive parties would be cruising from win to win.

But, instead, right-leaning parties are doing well. In the United States, Republicans control both houses of Congress. In Israel, the Likud Party led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled off a surprising win in an election that was at least partly about economic policy. In Britain, the Conservative Party led by Prime Minister David Cameron won a parliamentary majority.

A Better Debate Template: July Madness


38557_lotto-madness1This is my first post, so be nice. On the other hand, the screen name is no joke; I’ve been around since the first podcast, months before the site was even launched. I had planned to wait until I retire in a few months before joining, and frankly I was hoping that Rob would get to the point of kneeling, sobbing, and just pleading for people to join. But now I have stuff on my mind …

As I assume everyone knows, the RNC is planning a greatly reduced debate schedule for the 2016 election cycle. The party believes (and without question, many agree) that the large number of debates hurt them in 2012. The committee apparently thought it unwise to give the candidates that many opportunities to say something stupid and waste a lot of valuable campaign time.

On the other hand, many of us (including me) loved having a debate every few days. For political junkies, it was like football season, and there was always another game coming up. For us oddballs, the idea that the schedule will be limited to just three or four debates is a huge disappointment.

The Left Has Abandoned Ideas for Identities


Sen. Harry Reid — who apparently still runs the U.S. Senate despite the GOP being the majority — killed the President’s plan for fast-track authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Leading up to the big vote, Obama traded barbs with free-trade opponent Elizabeth Warren, with the language growing increasingly personal.

In an April conference call, the President rebuffed Warren’s claim TPP was overly secretive. “The one that gets on my nerves the most is the notion that this is a secret deal,” Obama said. “Every single one of the critics saying this is a secret deal, or send out e-mails to their fundraising base that they’re working to stop a secret deal, could walk over and see the text of the agreement.”

First Past the Post?


shutterstock_89599348We don’t have a sovereign and a prime minister, but the one thing we do have in common with our British cousins is the concept of “first past the post,” that is the candidate with the largest vote count in any constituency wins.

This leads to some grumbling among the losers. For example, in the late UK election, the Scottish National Party received 1,454,436 votes or 4% of the total cast. The United Kingdom Independence Party received 3,881,129, or almost 13%. Guess which party got 56 MPs and which one got just one?

Which led to this Tweet this morning:

E Unum Pluribus


Hiding-in-a-closetUK Conservatives had quite a good week–certainly better than the pollsters who predicted a Labour win or a hung parliament. Even exit polls didn’t suggest an out-and-out Tory majority. This raises the possibility that a significant number of people interviewed after voting lied about how they voted.

In a March 18, 2015, column in the Guardian, Alberto Nardelli suggested that the inherent difficulties in “designing the sample population, and the quality of the data available when doing so” were key to explaining why a near-landslide Likud victory in Israel’s recent election was not projected by exit polls. But he only obliquely considered the implication of the statement that the “quality of data” was bad because people simply didn’t tell the truth.

Granted, one or two swallows does not a summer make. But it’s worth wondering if something biases polling away from conservatives, and if so, if there are implications for the 2016 US elections.

Oh Look: Michelle Obama’s Complaining Again


Michelle ObamaLast week, first lady Michelle Obama lectured the leaders of The Whitney Museum at their grand opening, insisting that American museums are unwelcoming to “people who look like (her).” Her stable, middle-class childhood and her Ivy League education — topped with wealth, power, and privilege — can ‘t mitigate her fury at perceived ill-treatment at the hands of a racist America.

This week, FLOTUS registered a new complaint about the bad hand America has dealt her. In a commencement address, she inspired graduates of Alabama’s Tuskegee University by lamenting the pain and emotional distress she has endured as the first African-American First Lady.

“You might remember the on-stage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary win that was referred to as a ‘terrorist fist jab,’ ” she said.

A Reply to Paul Ryan


paul-ryanDear Representative Ryan,

This is in response to your email inviting me to take the 2015 Congressional Policy Survey because “This survey is one of the best ways for your voice to be heard.” Being asked for my opinion on leaders who spend more time unilaterally disarming themselves than engaging in the battles that I and others sent them to Washington to fight on our behalf is a dicey proposition, after all. It’s rather like being asked, “Aside from the obvious unpleasantries, how was your voyage on the Titanic?”

My first inclination was to print the email out so I could experience the exhilaration of physically tossing it in the garbage, but I thought better of it. You want my voice to be heard? Fine. Here we go:

2015 Gubernatorial Races and the Republican “Red Wall”


BryantBefore we get to 2016, there’s some housekeeping to attend to. Specifically, three gubernatorial contests on tap for later this year. The states in play: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Will they offer any windows into the health of the two parties? Let’s take a quick look at each one.

1) Kentucky. The state synonymous with horse racing has the inside track on the  nastiest race so far. A college girlfriend says one-time GOP frontrunner and state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer abused her. That, in turn, raised questions as to fellow Republican Hal Heiner’s campaign tactics. How ugly has the GOP fight become? At one point, Comer called Heiner “the Christian Laettner of Kentucky politics.” Why that hurts so badly in Wildcat Nation:

Top Presidential Disqualifiers


shutterstock_106049342The great unwashed have been polled by WSJ/NBC, and have spoken. The top three traits causing voters to be uncomfortable or have reservations about a president candidate are: 1. No previous elected experience (excludes Carson and Fiorina) 2. A leader of the Tea Party movement (excludes Cruz and possibly Rubio); and 3. No college degree (excludes Walker).

While I haven’t been able to dig up the methodology on this poll — and I suspect Democrats are over-sampled, as usual — I believe these results are instructive. The most favorable traits among the general electorate are for an African-American or a woman, which verifies my speculation that Hillary picks up six points just for being a woman, the way Barack Obama picked up six for being African-American. It also tells me that Americans are enamored by what identity politics says about them way more than they are interested in improving the country. I think that’s sad, but true.

The poll also indicates how hung-up the country has become on credentials, and how badly damaged the Tea Party brand has become. There’s also something deeply disturbing about the state of the nation’s moral compass that “corrupt” doesn’t even register as a category. That may be a flaw in the poll or, perhaps — as long as your team wins — it doesn’t matter if your candidate regularly sells her influence to the highest bidder <cough>Hillary Clinton<cough>. Hard to tell without more information.

Why Republicans Should Oppose Term Limits


Today, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) introduced a bill that would impose a six-year term limit on members of the House, while Senators would be held to 12 years in office. This is a magnificently stupid idea.

I worked on Capitol Hill for eight years back in the ’90s and early 2000s. I came into the job right before the 1994 elections and saw the incoming Republican majority as an opportunity for me and my ilk to do our part to re-make a Constitutional government. Like most Republican staffers on the Hill, I was bright, but young and laughingly inexperienced. As a result, I got my rear kicked day after day by my Democrat counterparts.

Hillary’s the Inevitable Democratic Nominee? Not so Fast


shutterstock_155865410You’ve all heard the conventional wisdom: Hillary Clinton is a sure thing for the Democratic nomination. No one in the party is going to be able to muscle her aside. Don’t be so sure. As things stand right now, Hillary could lose the nomination without Fox News and the rest of the conservative media having to so much as lift a finger.

Don’t forget what happened back in 2008, when Hillary was also supposed to be inevitable. The Clinton machine was unstoppable—right until the moment it was overthrown by the progressive Left. They look at the Clintons and see political opportunists rather than true believers, Wall Street cronies instead of populist champions. They are not happy about this coronation. But, because the Clintons are powerful, wealthy, and ruthless, no one will take them on directly – the strategy has to be making Hillary’s candidacy untenable.

That’s what we saw with the disastrous tour to promote Hillary’s book – the criticisms all came swiftly, and from the left. The stories about the emails? Researched and promoted by the progressive ProPublica. The fact that Peter Schweizer’s book Clinton Cash is being amplified by liberal media outlets like the New York Times (undermining Hillary’s claim that this was just a right-wing smear job)? It wouldn’t be happening if they wanted her to be the nominee.

Taxing Time


shutterstock_216904363Today, the voters in Michigan are going to the polls. A few of them, that is – for no one is on the ballot, and in no one’s front yard will you find a sign. There was no one ahead of me this morning when I stopped by the Hillsdale County Library to cast my ballot, and the parking lot was close to empty. This is, you see, a stealth election – deliberately scheduled at a time when next to no one is paying any attention – and its aim is to raise the sales tax rate throughout the state.

If this were the work of the Democrats, I would not much mind. I do not expect better of them. They are the party of high taxation, of well-funded public-sector unions, and of poor service. Raising taxes and redistributing the fruits of our labors to free-loaders is their raison d’être.

What burns me is that this dirty trick is the work of our Republican Governor Rick Snyder and of the go-along-to-get-along Republicans we elected as state representatives and state senators in 2010 and 2014.

The Nature of Our Nature


In recent threads, there’s been some back and forth regarding Mankind’s nature and some… speculation as to how attitudes about it correlate with political ideology. I’ve my own theories on the matter, but I think more might be gained at this point from asking than guessing (differences tend to get exagerated in debates, so it’s sometimes best to take a step back and explore each other’s first principles). So, Ricochetti, here’s this morning’s assignment:

  1. Do you believe Mankind to be inherently good, wicked, or neither? Explain briefly.
  2. Which philosophers and/or theologians do you identify with on this subject (bonus points for providing a representative quote).
  3. How do your answers above inform your political philosophy?

Why Are You Voting Against Your Own Interests?


shutterstock_99826235A major pet peeve of mine in the world of politics is the phrase “voting against their own interests.” It’s usually used to indicate a sense of exasperation and disbelief on the part of the speaker that a certain group of voters is favoring a candidate or political party whom the speaker believes does not represent their best interests (see here, here, and here, for examples).

More specifically, it’s often used by Progressives to bemoan the tendency of some female voters and some of lower socioeconomic status to vote for Republicans. The insinuation is that Republicans are the “party of the rich” and they support policies that might jeopardize “women’s health” (i.e., abortion), therefore they should be universally rejected by certain classes of voters. The writers of these pieces struggle to explain this behavior and they usually settle for some combination of religious belief, small-mindedness, fear, and stupidity.

One explanation that never seems to cross the minds of those who write these pieces is that they themselves may have misidentified the “best interests” of the people on whose behalf they purport to be speaking. Put another way, it takes a special kind of arrogance to think that you are capable of defining the best interests of anyone other than yourself, much less large swathes of society. In fact, when these individuals attempt to define the “best interests” of others, they often assign those interests that drive their own behavior and choices.

More on Iran’s Illegal Seizure of the Maersk Tigris


Maersk-TigrisLast week, Claire posted about Iran’s seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged container ship, MV Maersk Tigris. To recap, the Iranians decided to demonstrate, yet again, that the U.S. is a worthless ally by seizing a cargo ship flagged by a country that we pledged to defend. It appears that the seizure is based on an Iranian court judgement against Maersk, which chartered the vessel.

Eugene Kontorovich, on the excellent Volokh Conspiracy blog, analyzes Iran’s legal claims for seizing the Maersk Tigris and concludes that the country doesn’t have a leg to stand on:

Maritime law in fact allows nations to arrest foreign vessels for certain kind of claims, or maritime liens, and the cargo dispute between Iran and Maersk qualifies. However, the arrest of ships engaged in innocent transit is limited under the United Convention of the Law of the Sea, and general custom, to a limited set of claims involving the vessel itself…

Your Top Two, Number-One Priorities


William_CaseyLast week, I suggested that Republicans should identify a short list of easy, low-risk, political victories with a mind toward establishing credibility and gaining momentum toward bigger, riskier, more important projects. That begs the question of what those bigger priorities should be, and that makes for some difficult decision making. As my dad’s former boss, Director of Central Intelligence Bill Casey, once explained to him:

If you’re brilliant, you can accomplish one thing. If you’re a genius you can accomplish two. The trick is to figure out the two things you want to get done, forget everything else, and be willing to take the beating you’ll get when everyone complains about all the things you didn’t get done.

So, Ricochetti, what are the two policy priorities the Republicans should pursue in 2017, should they win the presidency and hold congress? Bear in mind that we can only expect one of them to get done if the new president and congress are brilliant.

They Said If I Voted Republican in 2012, Cultural Issues Would Dominate Politics and They Were Right!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the years following the election of President Obama, Instapundit made a habit of pointing out how dire predictions made by the Left often came true. The horrors were visited upon us not by John McCain or Mitt Romney, but by Obama himself. Here’s a sampling of what I’m talking about.

One of the things we’ve heard repeatedly is that the GOP wants to fight the culture wars and people just don’t want to talk about those things. Plenty of free advice has dispensed over the years saying that if Republicans want to ever win a Presidential election again, they better stop talking about social issues – American’s doesn’t want to hear it. Well, perhaps the Democrats should take that heed that advice themselves as we approach the 2016 elections.

A string of recent stories have highlighted the Left’s engagement in the culture wars and their desire to push social issues to the forefront of people’s minds.

About Those Smoking Guns


In January, Robert F. McDonnell, 71st governor of Virginia, was sentenced to two years in prison followed by two years of supervised release after his conviction on 11 counts of public corruption. He, and especially his wife, behaved badly. But it’s worth taking a closer look at what was considered criminal in McDonnell’s case, because, at least so far, some in the press are suggesting that Hillary Clinton’s conduct must meet a much higher threshold to be considered problematic.

When ABC’s George Stephanopoulos interviewed Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash on Sunday, Stephanopoulos played the informal role of Clinton defense attorney. Skipping right over the truly squalid appearance of conflict of interest inherent in the Clinton Foundation accepting contributions from nations and firms having business before the State Department while Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State, Stephanopoulos focused only on law breaking. “Do you have any evidence that a crime may have been committed?” he demanded. When Schweizer said he thought the material he, the New York Times, and others unearthed certainly merited further investigation, Stephanopoulos jumped on it: “But a criminal investigation? . . . Is there a smoking gun?”

Fix the Secret Service Already


shutterstock_159559880We learned this week that the Secret Service dawdled for an entire year before fixing a broken security system at the home of former president George H. W. Bush.

The Secret Service itself is looking pretty broken these days. A few weeks ago, two drunk agents returning from a party drove right through an active bomb investigation outside the White House. They didn’t notice that their colleagues were examining a suspicious package.

In 2012, a number of agents were found to have engaged prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia during a presidential trip. At least one of the prostitutes had links to a major drug cartel, according to investigators.

What Good Are Principles If You Won’t Stick to Them?


m-8458Last November, the people of Georgia State House district 102 reelected me to a third term. A few weeks ago, my 5th Legislative session ended. During the past five years as an elected official, I’ve learned a lot – not just about the legislative process – but about what makes a good legislator.

I still believe people run for office out of a genuine desire to serve their community. Almost without exception, people across the political spectrum run because they have an idea or a set of principles they believe will improve the lives of their neighbors. To be sure, people stumble along the way, make mistakes, become corrupt, or generally abandon the idealistic views they held when they first ran for office. Not everybody loses their way, however. In my experience, many legislators try to do the right thing. In our increasingly cynical society, I wish more people could see the good things I’ve seen while in the Legislature.

One bad thing I’ve observed in the Legislature are those who, over time, drift away from the principles they once held. Most often it’s because they’ve come to the conclusion that the system will never change. There’s good reason to think that. Government is often like the Borg from Star Trek — some eventually conclude that resistance is futile and join the collective.