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:

Individualism: Just One of the Things They Don’t Get



This political season has been a confusing one for the media and elites of both parties. In truth, the last few years have been confusing, especially the last three-odd congressional elections.

They are only now starting to act as if they might “get” part of the decided tendency voters are showing toward what have been called the “outsiders.” Donald Trump seemed to be opening the door for the non-establishment political newcomer. But GOP voters have given top-tier status to three plain-speaking candidates, none of whom have held elective office before. They are all accomplished, independent people. The pundit class is beginning to grasp a few things about their connection to the public — but the essence of it is still out of their wheelhouse.

Why I Admire the Democratic Party


shutterstock_238956442I will stipulate that the policies of the Democrat Party are both fiscally irresponsible and socially destructive. I will stipulate that Democrats lie to advance their destructive and irresponsible policies. I will stipulate that Democrat politicians are by and large corrupt, irresponsible, and often display a disturbing hostility toward Constitutional rights.

Having said that, there are things one cannot help but admire, even envy, about the Democrat Party versus the Republican Party.

1. Democrat Leaders Don’t Attack Their Own Members.

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Ian Tuttle of National Review are encouraged by some of the conservative names being considered for House majority leader.  They also shudder as Vladimir Putin swoops in as leader on the world stage as Obama retreats.  And they shake their heads as Obama warns Iran that shouting “Death to America” doesn’t create jobs.

‘Uncommon Knowledge’ Flashback: Kevin McCarthy on the GOP House


House majority leader Kevin McCarthy is being mentioned as a possible replacement for departing Speaker of the House John Boehner. In this Uncommon Knowledge interview recorded a year ago, Peter Robinson sits down with the Bakersfield congressman to discuss his role in the House, the future of California, and actions taken on the border. McCarthy began his own business at age 19, eventually went on to work in the California State Assembly, and was elected to Congress in 2006.

The Classicist Podcast, with Victor Davis Hanson: “2016 and the Race for the White House”


In the newest installment of The Classicist podcast, VDH takes us on a tour of the 2016 presidential race: How should we interpret Scott Walker’s departure? How plausible is a presidential candidate without electoral experience? What’s Victor’s cryptic message for Mike Huckabee? And why does Hillary Clinton have the Sage of the Central Valley quoting Nine Inch Nails lyrics? All that, plus perhaps the first in-depth analysis of the Jim Webb campaign that you’ve heard this cycle, can be heard below or when you subscribe to The Classicist via iTunes.

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review enjoy watching Hillary Clinton dig a deeper hole for herself over her email scandal as Democrats complain that the story is sucking all the oxygen out of the Democratic race.  They also shake their heads as CNBC still hasn’t set the criteria for GOP candidates to qualify for next month’s debate.  And they have fun with the news that Kanye West is very impressed by Ben Carson.

What 50 HP Execs Said About Carly Fiorina — And What That Says About What Kind of POTUS She Might Be



Just how good a corporate boss was GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina? Well, Stanford’s Behnam Tabrizi interviewed more than 50 Hewlett Packard executives and mid-level managers who worked for the technology company in the 2004 to 2007 period. These are folks who worked with Fiorina and her successor, Mark Hurd. Many of them reported directly to the two CEOs. Here is what Tabrizi learned about Fiorina, as he writes in Harvard Business Review:

When Fiorina came to HP, the culture that she walked into was very much “aim, aim, aim and fire” — a slow culture, during a time when companies were moving very fast. In that context, she was what we want our change leaders to be — bold and disruptive. … Although the early merger integration was successful, it ultimately missed key mid- and long-term goals under Fiorina. She was weak in execution and implementation, a problem that would dog her tenure at HP.  … And yet several executives who worked with her found her to be inspiring – “a rock star, and a dazzling performer on stage.” Fiorina attacked many different aspects of the company, including reorganization, cost cutting, and vision setting.  … She was the disruptive leader she needed to be at the time, but she missed one key element. She never took the time to develop rapport with individual employees, and therefore never got buy-in or support for her initiatives. …

A House Divided


The announcement of Speaker Boehner’s sudden retirement has mostly been met with joy, and I am not sorry to see him go. But we should temper our enthusiasm about how radical a change will come with a new speaker.

The reality of the House, in my opinion, is that it is not made up of two parties. It is made up of three.

The Francis Effect


shutterstock_313976906According to a comprehensive Pew poll, since Francis became the supreme pontiff, the number of Catholics in this country has remained unchanged, the rate at which Catholics attend mass has remained unchanged, and the rates at which Catholics go to confession or participate in volunteer activities in their churches and communities has remained … unchanged.

In view of all this, Mollie Hemingway on the Pope’s visit:

It’s wonderful that some people say that Francis makes them feel the church is more welcoming to them. But if it’s just making people feel more comfortable in their politics, instead of making them feel the comfort of absolution, communion and strengthening of faith, that’s not much to get excited about.

The Establishment on the Rocks


shutterstock_304544159The base is done with The Establishment. They’ve had it with the same tired, compromised, money-soaked power-brokers who feel entitled to votes and they’re looking for someone to shake things up and send a message. Yes, it seems New Hampshire Democrats are fed up:

It is part of Mrs. Clinton’s play to win New Hampshire, which is shaping up to be a vital state for the candidate once seen as the inevitable 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. With Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders drawing close in Iowa, and Vice President Joe Biden weighing a South Carolina launch pad, New Hampshire may wind up as critical to Mrs. Clinton’s path to her party’s nomination.

New Hampshire turned her husband into the self-declared “comeback kid” in 1992 after a second-place finish, and it revived then-New York Sen. Clinton’s 2008 run after a loss to Barack Obama in Iowa. Now, the Clinton campaign is trying to win it again by closing the gap with Mr. Sanders, who has moved ahead in polls. While Mrs. Clinton still leads in Iowa, neither she nor her husband, former President Bill Clinton, has prevailed in the caucuses when there was a competitive race.

Jay Nordlinger is that most valued sort of journalist: a true intellectual. Not only does he cover politics as the Senior Editor of National Review, he’s also a fine music critic.

Nordlinger has a curiosity that lends itself well to writing books. He recently asked himself what might have become of the children of some of history’s most devilish dictators. That question has produced great fruit in the form of his latest, Children of Monsters. Some of the offspring of these mass murderers turned their back on the family business, while others happily towed the line and became maniacal outliers in their own right.