an open letter to evan mcmullin

Dear Evan,

It’s not you.  It’s us.  It was always about us and our complete frustration with the failure of the two main political parties. What happened in November between conservatives, hard-core #NeverTrump, and yourself was a marriage of convenience, and it was also the perfect storm for any third-party candidate to take votes away from two deeply flawed candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  I’m sure you know this.  You seem to be a smart guy.

You were the last man standing of the third-party candidates I could have voted for as a conservative.  I give you credit for putting yourself out there to be an alternative choice for us.  Thank you for that. But the Hillary / Trump choice made it easier for those of us who got tired of voting for the status quo Republicans to finally reject both horrible candidates. I doubt any of us would regret rejecting this binary choice, and it wouldn’t have happened without the Trump nomination.

Here’s the thing, though.  #NeverTrump ended after President Trump’s election.  It’s time to move on.  I remain just as skeptical of President Trump as you are, but if you’re planning to run for office again in the future, you should know that your current strategy is turning off many conservatives who were willing to give you a shot at being an alternative voice.  Suddenly, we are remembering why this happened, and that your conservative street cred is not exactly the strongest compared to others we trust to speak for us. I’m starting to regret voting for you, even under these unique circumstances.

Senator Lee, Senator Cruz, and Senator Sasse have earned the right to call themselves conservatives, based on their record and their activism in support of conservative values.  You have not. But there’s time here to earn the credit we have given you by our votes last November.  Conservative street cred is merit-based. It’s time to re-direct your energy to fighting battles that matter to the rest of the country – defending religious liberty, committing to the full repeal of Obamacare, and pushing for legit tax reform that reduces the burden on the American people.  Our President will rise and fall on his own merits.  There’s nothing we can do to change that.  Use your new-found platform to do more than snipe at our President.  It would benefit you and the country you love.  Think about it, ok?

With respect,

Me

what I saw in the Nevada debate

Here’s the overview of what I saw in this debate:

  • 9-9-9 needs a better explanation / sales pitch to answer objections
  • All the second tier / third tier candidates brought some interesting ideas to the table and I appreciated their contribution because that’s not something we would get without these important voices.
  • It’s not clear to me that Mitt Romney or Rick Perry would implement the kind of radical reforms we need to get our government’s fiscal house in order.
  • Those who said (mainly Ron Paul) that everything should be on the table when it comes to spending are correct. Even foreign aid. There tends to be a knee-jerk reaction against cutting military spending. We need to define what this means. Are we talking about not giving the active military the tools they needs to effectively do their jobs? If so, I’m opposed to doing that. If however, the question is reevaluating our spending priorities on things like the UN and passive military deployments in countries that are not currently at war, why shouldn’t this kind of spending be on the table? We can’t afford this kind of thing anymore. Let’s look at cutting some of this. There is also waste in military spending, authorizing money for tech we don’t really need. So yes, put all of this on the table.
  • Rick Perry has the edge on Romney on health care, mostly because he doesn’t have the albatross of something like Romneycare in his state. The criticism by Romney about the uninsured in Texas is unfair because as Perry points out, this number includes illegals as well.
  • Why is no one else talking about Dodd-Frank? This is an important issue that someone other than Michelle Bachmann should be discussing at length because these regulations hurt the economy and the average person having to deal with the consequences of this legislation.

I have doubts about Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. Herman Cain admits that his national sales tax will apply in addition to the state and local taxes. That means that this will be a new tax for those who don’t currently have a tax. This will be a hard sell to the average American voter, who won’t take the time to understand the whole hidden tax thing but will instead see a clear increase in their sales tax which would make a concrete impact on what they spend on essentials like food and gas for the car. There aren’t any exceptions to the tax as far as I can tell, so each person would be hit with the same level of taxation no matter how much their income is. At least with the fair tax there are allowances for this double taxation with the pre-bates. 9-9-9 needs more tweaking IMO.

On Mitt Romney – the verbal fisticuffs between him and Rick Perry was ugly to watch. I understand that something like this was inevitable because of Perry’s previous debate performances but it still made both of them look petty and definitely not presidential. Now I think that the CNN analysts were wrong in suggesting that Reagan’s 11th commandment prohibits legitimate criticism of one’s fellow Republican candidates, but that’s not what that exchange was. I don’t know the real story with Mitt’s lawn care service, but what struck me was his comment to the effect that once he realized that the lawn care people were employing illegals, he decided to stop using them BECAUSE he was running for President and it wouldn’t look right. Not because it was wrong. He made this decision based on his fear of public opinion and because he didn’t want it to damage his political ambitions. That’s what he said. I’m not adding anything. That pretty much summarizes the chameleon nature of Mitt’s entire political career. I’ll get back to that in a future post.

Let’s be perfectly clear about this – neither Rick Perry nor Mitt Romney has much credibility on illegal immigration so for them to pick that issue to fight about seems rather foolish. I would call that a draw although it would make sense to assume that Perry knows a little more about what should be done on the border – even though he hasn’t done much about it – since Texas is a border state. If one wishes to pick a winner, then it would have to be determined how much the states control when it comes to enforcement of federal immigration law, and I don’t know the answer to that question.

Continue reading

a little more unserious

One of my favorite movies is Dave. It is a movie where an average citizen (Dave) impersonates the President of the United States for a living, and is thrown into the real job due to some really shady political operatives.  (Quick aside – Kevin Kline is awesome in that role!) There’s a scene in that movie  in which Dave enlists his accountant friend Murray to cut the federal budget so that the homeless shelter wouldn’t have to close.  Murray looks at the budget and says something to the effect of if private citizens handled their books like this, they would be in jail. Yeah.  One of the items in that budget was an advertising campaign to bolster confidence in the American auto industry.   Dave asks the Congresscritter (I forget the name of the guy) to explain this.  He explains that this was designed to boost Americans’ confidence in a previous auto purchase.  So an ad campaign to make American feel better about cars they have already bought.  Mmhmm.

What I’m getting at here is there are many unnecessary expenditures in our budget even before we get to domestic spending.   If America is broke — and if we are not there yet, we are close — then why are we spending so much money on foreign aid?   Why are we validating the UN by providing a significant portion of its financing to its collection of Third-World despots, dictators, and countries who would seriously consider wiping US off the map along with Israel?  As for Iraq and Afghanistan, don’t pretend that an already-planned troop reduction should count toward a spending cut since this will happen regardless of which plan ends up passing in Congress.  So let’s not insist that all these things (some more important than others) are off the table when we have to make so many cuts to domestic spending to balance this budget.

And yes, it’s true – neither side is serious about making the cuts we need to make to get our fiscal house in order.  But at least the House Republicans are providing some level of opposition to the bipartisan failure that is the Boehner plan.  From the way Speaker Boehner explained his plan on every single talk radio station, it’s clear to me that proposed spending cuts don’t have any weight to them, and that’s the kind of cuts in this plan.  Also, those spending cuts are spread out over 10 years, which means that they won’t offset the rise in the debt ceiling that would happen in this agreement.    I’m not advocating irresponsibility.  Still, I find it difficult to trust Congress and the president when they insist that certain doom will befall America if we don’t raise the debt ceiling.  There will be no incentive to make those necessary cuts when the government knows that they have a limitless checkbook.    For these, and many other reasons,  I would encourage Congress and especially the Republicans to keep trying.  We aren’t there yet.

For more, read Reason’s excellent article here.

motives

Finally there appears to be some agreement that we must reduce spending. Unfortunately, the mindset of those who wish to do this is all wrong. I guess I shouldn’t care about the motives of the Democrats and Republicans here, as long as they do what we all want them to do. But it does matter, because even if we manage to get our fiscal house in order (and that’s no small task), if we do not quit wasting money on unnecessary things, we will quickly get back to the same problem we are in right now. When getting out of debt, one must change the behavior that led to the fiscal crisis they were in. I know this first hand. Why is this concept so difficult for the White House and Congress to grasp?

Read the following quote from President Obama and you tell me whether he understands this concept:

If youre a progressive that cares about investments in Head Start and student loan programs and medical research and infrastructure, Mr. Obama said, were not going to be able to make progress on those areas if we havent gotten our fiscal house in order.”

So we have to put the fiscal house in order to spend MORE money on social programs. Got it. I would argue that putting our fiscal house in order requires a re-evaluation of our current spending priorities and maybe eliminating some programs. That’s not what the President wants to do.

the earmark myth

This was posted on NRO’s The Corner blog, and I thought that it was worthy of discussion – the concept that a ban on earmarks (some know this as “pork”)would be a bad idea. Now, keep in mind, I’m a huge Jim DeMint fan. I think he’s generally right on as far as the condemnation of wasteful spending and the ineffectiveness of the huge government bureaucracy. I’m down with this whole limited-government thing. This is not intended as a justification to expand government or continue funding projects that can’t be justified in this economy. However,  there is an argument against a complete ban on earmarks, and Senator Jim Inhofe makes a good case for the opposition.

Read it and decide for yourself.

Here’s a quote from his post:

Demagoguing earmarks provides cover for some of the biggest spenders in Congress. Congressional earmarks, for all their infamous notoriety, are not the cause of trillion-dollar federal deficits (of all the discretionary spending that took place in Washington last year, earmarks made up only 1.5 percent). Nor will an earmark moratorium solve the crisis of wasteful Washington spending run amuck. While anti-earmarkers bloviate about the billions spent through earmarks, many of them supported the trillions of dollars in extra spending for bailouts, stimulus, and foreign aid. Talk about specks versus planks! Over the course of the last several years, the overall number and dollar amount of earmarks has steadily decreased. During that same time, overall spending has ballooned by over $1.3 trillion. In reality, ballyhooing about earmarks has been used as a ruse by some to seem more fiscally responsible than they really are.

Yeah.  Condemning congressional earmarks is a painless way to pretend one is committed to fiscal responsibility.  But I’m going to go a bit further then the Senator is willing to go, as far as what is generally considered out of bounds to most Republicans, especially elected ones.  If we are really serious about dealing with our massive national debt, everything must be on the table for analysis -including defense spending.  In addition to that, there must be some accountability and budget justification for all expenditures.   The private sector does this.  Why can’t the government do this?  There’s too much fluid funny money, where money intended for one project goes to a different project.    There’s no way of knowing how all this money is spent.   We see this all the time from Washington, and this has to stop if we want to seriously deal with our debt problem.

about last night

Random:

Much credit should be given to RNC Chairman Michael Steele for shutting up and not saying anything stupid during this election cycle that could have doomed the Republicans to certain failure. Well done.

Marco Rubio is a star and future president material. Loved his speech. More on that later.

Congratulations to our next governor Nikki Haley and our new Representative Mick Mulvaney. His win was huge for our district, since it meant the defeat of Nancy Pelosi’s budget chairman John Spratt. This was a long time coming, and we finally found the right guy to get the job done. YAY!!!!!

So, who were those 28% voting for Alvin Greene, anyway?

It would be hard to say that there were many surprises about the election results last night, with Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives and Dems barely retaining control of the Senate. I do think that in some cases, there were missed opportunities for the Republicans — primarily Nevada, Delaware, and Alaska. Of course, we won’t know for several weeks whether Joe Miller or Lisa Murkowski wins in Alaska, but my opinion is still the same about this race. The losses of these Tea Party candidates is not a repudiation of the ideology that the Tea Party candidates represent. These results are based on the weaknesses of these candidates. I’m an ideologue at heart. I’m both fiscally and socially conservative in my belief system, and I want my candidates to share my beliefs. With that said, I still recognize the need to field candidates with political skill in addition to having a sound foundation on the issues we find important. We CAN have both, and the Republicans need to try harder to find this kind of candidate. It’s unrealistic to think that every candidate we put up can have the star power of a Marco Rubio or Jim DeMint, but it’s also unrealistic to believe that the Republican Party can throw up just any candidate and defeat entrenched incumbent Democrats like Harry Reid.

There are lessons to be learned here, and here’s a strategy I would humbly suggest to my Republican friends going forward to future elections.
Both establishment Republicans and Tea Party members have a few takeaways from last night’s results. What establishment Republicans need to understand is that ideology matters, and to some voters it matters enough to toss overboard the sure-thing candidate to send a message to the powers that be in Washington controlling the purse strings of our party. What Tea Party members need to understand is that the priority of the national Republican Party is getting candidates elected, and that sometimes you can’t get everything you want in a candidate who has a better chance to win than the Tea Party choice. What we know, based on what we have seen, is that strong Republican candidates win, and those who try to play both sides have a tougher road to election / re-election. Would it have been better if Mike Castle was the Republican nominee in Delaware instead of Christine O’Donnell? No, but Delaware voters really needed a better primary choice than those two candidates, especially when the attempt is to flip a solid Democrat Senate seat.

This is the difficulty for the national Republican Party because they can’t just randomly kick to the curb any RINOs that may appear in their sights, since electability still matters to them (and it should). So the responsibility here belongs to the Tea Party to provide quality challengers to the establishment Republicans. The responsibility of the national party is to stay out of the way in the primaries and let the voters decide who the candidates should be. Once that’s decided, then both sides must help the candidates prepare for interviews and debates to give them the best chance to win their race.

In some cases, nothing can be done to fix a flawed candidate. We win some. We lose some. The media takes every advantage it can find to hammer our candidates. That’s politics. It doesn’t benefit the Republican Party to engage in the petty infighting we have seen between the national Republican Party — and those like Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove who wish to speak for the establishment Republicans — and the candidates who have been selected by the voters to represent the Republicans in the primary. Sometimes the voters have bad choices. This is definitely true in the 2010 midterm elections. We have to play the cards we are dealt, and work toward a better result next election. Peggy Noonan suggested on Morning Joe that the best candidates should have career experience before they enter politics for the first time. We can’t just pluck any well-meaning person out of their home to take on Harry Reid or an establishment Republican like Lisa Murkowski. No offense intended to Joe Miller and Sharron Angle, but we could have found stronger candidates for Nevada and Alaska. If Sarah Palin was really serious about defeating her nemesis, she should have run for that Senate seat herself rather than endorsing Joe Miller.

my thoughts on the ground zero mosque

My thoughts on the Ground Zero mosque (in bullet form and in no particular order)

  • Tolerance should go both ways.
  • The skepticism over this project is justified. Several questions need to be asked and answered before we should allow this to move forward. The person we want representing Islam should not be someone who hasn’t committed to promoting peace both domestically and internationally.
  • This guy isn’t the right guy to build bridges.
  • Freedom of religion also applies to Muslims in this country.
  • The strongest objections are moral, not legal – and this is where we should make our case.
  • For all Americans who give their sole allegiance to this country, their religion should be immaterial to the rights they enjoy as citizens.
  • This issue cannot win Republicans an election. It may fire up the grassroots base, but the average American will be focused on jobs and the economy. That’s where Republicans should focus their energy – on pointing out the failures of this administration to make the right moves to help the economy recover. They are fully capable of screwing up an election even with the extremely favorable situation they find themselves in going into November.
  • There’s no good reason why this mosque must be built near Ground Zero, whether there’s an existing mosque close by or not.
  • Are we clear on the intent and goals of this cultural center / mosque? Is it a mosque or cultural center, or both?
  • Either way, it would be a good idea for the builders to consult with the 9/11 families to ensure that their wishes are respected, and ultimately, as a sign of good faith to those of other religions, move the mosque somewhere else.
  • In a clear bridge-building move – the cultural center should include memorials to 9/11 victims. That would be an extremely classy move, and an effective compromise that should satisfy everyone.

careful what you wish for

This is an uncomfortable position conservatives find themselves in as a result of last night’s election results – between electability and the raw passion of the tea party candidates. Not every conservative should be considered electable. For every Nikki Haley – who has shown incredible message discipline and restraint in the face of scurrilous accusations against her – there are several candidates who lack that ability when facing even the smallest challenges. I’ve said this previously, but I think it is important to remember that activists don’t always make the best candidates. They play very different roles in a political party. That’s the thing to remember with some of these winning tea party approved candidates – the transition from one role to the other is sometimes difficult. These populist heroes won’t say the PC thing most of the time and this will get them into trouble with the media. This is what we love about these guys and gals, but it’s an easy way for a nascent campaign to sink before it even leaves the harbor.

I love rebels too, and appreciate the sacrifices those potential candidates have to make to run for office. For that reason, there must be a process of vetting, interviews, and other training to properly prepare them for the challenges they will face. Of course there will always be candidates who are more than a little risky, such as Sharron Angle and Rand Paul, but ultimately the voters in this country win when the average person starts caring enough to take the challenge personally and run for political office. Political parties, and specifically the Republican Party, need to do a better job in nurturing and developing young and unproven talent in their ranks so that they can have a strong farm system for the future and so that we don’t have the same guys running for President every four years.

elena kagan – it could be worse

How does it add anything to a SCOTUS nominee’s qualifications when it is noted that a nominee’s life story is inspirational, a real American rags-to-riches success story, and so forth and so on?  While the life experiences of Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor are certainly a made-for-TV movie waiting to happen, they have nothing to do with being a Supreme Court justice.  If anything, those life experiences tend to suggest a certain subjective POV that leans toward one specific ideological perspective – and it’s not one conservatives can support.  But that’s hardly a surprise.

It’s difficult to believe that President Obama doesn’t know exactly what he’s getting in Elena Kagan. What we know about her so far is enough to suggest to me two things – one, she leans progressive; and two, she doesn’t have any judicial experience.  The latter doesn’t technically disqualify her from serving as a Supreme Court justice, as others have accurately pointed out.  However, this gives greater importance to her writings and speeches, and her actions as a law professor.   Those evaluating her fitness for this job will have to look at everything she has said and done in the past, and try to accurately predict which way she will go as a Supreme Court justice.  This evaluation will be completed before Elena Kagan gets her first question in the Senate confirmation hearings.

Many Democrats have already started lining up behind the President’s pick, while Republicans are promising to ask hard questions that are unlikely to be answered.  That’s the way this kabuki theater works.  Actually ask hard questions of SCOTUS nominees from the opposing party that you will never get a straight answer to, and in the end the nominee gets through, unless he/she is fatally flawed like Harriet Miers.

Honestly, I’m ok with this.  Many pundits find their latest column idea by disparaging the way nominees are told to handle their confirmation hearings.  Since both sides have already made up their minds about the nominee before the hearings ever take place, the questions will always be a formality.  When was the last time we learned something useful from SCOTUS confirmation hearings?  Bork.  Right.  If straight-up answers keep qualified candidates from making it to the high court, then I’m all for the non-sequiturs.  Besides, it’s not likely that anything said in the hearings would turn a Democrat against Elena Kagan, and since the Republicans could very well be so open-minded their brains fall out, they could decide that there’s no point in opposing a nominee when her confirmation is more than likely.

heading toward the cliff

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is willing to sacrifice the political futures of her fellow House Democrats in order to get the health care bill passed.  That’s generous of her, and the Republicans will absolutely accept that result.  I just wonder how many left-leaning true believers are left in the Democratic Congress.  The answer to that question will determine the future of this health care bill.   Sure, there are a few like Nancy Pelosi who would sacrifice the rest of their political life to get this country-changing reform passed.  But I’m willing to bet that at the core, most Washington politicos value self-preservation over ideology.  They have seen the writing on the wall with the recent Republican victories and are considering future votes more carefully than they would otherwise.

Most Democrats will choose their jobs over following the Speaker over the political cliff.  That’s my prediction.

Even though our side seems to be winning the argument on health care reform, there’s still no reason to be overconfident.   There is still work to be done, and when the current legislation goes down in flames, we need to be ready to take advantage of that failure with our own vision and solutions.