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.

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on a personal note

So I’m back with some debate thoughts.  I have been busy with some other blogs, so I can’t promise consistent posting here anymore.  I’ll do my best to keep up with the politics, since the 2012 election is critical to deciding our nation’s future going forward. But this isn’t where my heart and energy is right now.  I’m currently pursuing a more creative outlet for my writing and that’s taken up quite a bit of my free time.  Hope you all understand and that you will forgive me for the sporadic posting from here on out.  Love you all.

Lisa

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.

america

A couple days late….but I just love this quote from The Economist from someone named Bernard DeVoto.

(I have no idea who that is, but I love what he said.)

Here’s the quote:

[American history] is the most romantic of all histories. It began in myth and has developed through centuries of fairy stories. Whatever the time is in America it is always, at every moment, the mad and wayward hour when the prince is finding the little foot that alone fits into the slipper of glass. It is a little hard to know what romantic means to those who use the word umbrageously. But if the mad, impossible voyage of Columbus or Cartier or La Salle or Coronado or John Ledyard is not romantic, if the stars did not dance in the sky when our Constitutional Convention met, if Atlantis has any landscape stranger or the other side of the moon any lights or colours or shapes more unearthly than the customary homespun of Lincoln and the morning coat of Jackson, well, I don’t know what romance is.

Ours is a story mad with the impossible, it is by chaos out of dream and it has continued as dream down to the last headlines you read in a newspaper. And of our dream there are two things above all others to be said, that only madmen could have dreamed them or would have dared to — and that we have shown a considerable faculty for making them come true.

Yes.  That’s exactly right.

the why candidate

Jon Huntsman.

Why is he running for President?  The groups of voters he would appeal to already have several candidates who would satisfy their requirements. Are there enough of those Republican voters who would choose him over the other moderates in the field?  I don’t see how he manages to get the attention of primary voters, much less win the nomination.  The timing is all wrong for the moderates / RINOs to run for the Republican nomination for president.   When we consider the damage inflicted on the economy by the actions of the Obama administration, and the failure to seriously address our debt crisis and rising gasoline prices, the last thing we need as a country is candidates who are willing to compromise on these critical issues.  Moderates like Huntsman would make those compromises.

That’s not to say that Republicans should seek conservative purity at all costs.  We still want to win.  ( Don’t we?)  This means conservatives must make our voices heard in this primary season, so that the nominee we select will represent our values even if his / her record hasn’t been spotless in the past.   Our nominee should be someone who can defeat President Obama.   That person might not be our ideal but reversing the Obama agenda should take priority over sending a message to a political party.   Send messages during the process.    In 2012, the message should be to win.

We don’t need another John McCain. One was too many.

good questions

George Will on Libya:

But if Khadafy can’t be beaten by the rebels, are we prepared to supply their military deficiencies? If the decapitation of his regime produces what the removal of Saddam Hussein did — bloody chaos — what then are our responsibilities regarding the tribal vendettas we may have unleashed? How long are we prepared to police the partitioning of Libya?

Explaining his decision to wage war, Obama said Khadafy has “lost the confidence of his own people and the legitimacy to lead.” Such boilerplate seems designed to anesthetize thought. When did Khadafy lose his people’s confidence? When did he have legitimacy?

American doctrine is that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. So there are always many illegitimate governments. When is it America’s duty to scrub away these blemishes on the planet? Is there a limiting principle of humanitarian interventionism? If so, would Obama take a stab at stating it?

I think the general consensus that Khadafy should be gone is correct.   The question should be how much the United States should be involved in another possible regime change situation.  It’s a question that requires much more thought than it’s been given by the Obama administration, and requires that we have a defined mission and objectives to determine what victory looks like.   Now my friends on the left are going to bring up Iraq and whether we had a plan for victory there.  If you believe that Iraq was a mistake (debatable but a fair position) and you have lost hope in Afghanistan, then it’s not possible to support the way the Obama administration has handled Libya.   If the United States calls for the removal of a dictator, the rest of the world generally expects that we will support all attempts to remove said dictator — even if that means eventually sending our own military to accomplish that goal.

The problem is that we have not committed to long-term military intervention.  Nor should we at this point.  The reasons we would get involved in this way should not have anything to do with the inclinations of our European allies.  The responsibility of the President of the United States should be to act in our best interest.   There are many areas of the world that could be candidates for our next humanitarian intervention – the Congo, Uganda, etc.   Where do we stop?  Where do we draw the line?  We can’t save everyone. It’s admirable to want to, and it’s one of America’s best qualities – to desire to reach out and help whenever there’s a crisis or people in need.

But our government doesn’t have unlimited resources.  There’s only so much we can do, and we can’t really afford to intervene everywhere.   We need to count the cost in Libya, and determine whether there’s something we can do without committing long-term, because we are still funding Iraq and Afghanistan.   The administration also should get the approval of Congress before going any further.  The Constitution requires it, and it would add legitimacy to the mission.  Getting further involved in Libya might be a tough sell to the American people, especially with Iraq and Afghanistan still on the board, but the President must make the case for it if he believes that the removal of Khadafy is important enough for our military to be involved in that process.

egypt and the way forward

There’s a book that I read that I highly recommend to all interested political observers – The Case For Democracy by Natan Sharansky.  The emphasis is on free societies, not simply a system of government in which the people elect their leaders by their votes.   It’s important to disconnect democracy from freedom, because these two words are not synonymous.   The argument is that it is not simply democracy that brings about stability in a country or society  – it is the level of rights and freedoms that are granted to its citizens.

What are these freedoms that former President Bush and, to a lesser extent, President Obama, are suggesting that citizens of other countries long for?  The ones we have here – freedom to speak out against the government without fear of punishment,  the freedom to worship the god of our choice or no god at all,  freedom to speak our minds in all forms of media without government censorship — these are a few of the freedoms we take for granted here in America.  The objective should be a freer Egypt where the average citizen has autonomy in these areas – where the people can choose the path that is best for them and succeed on their own terms.

Not all revolutions are good ones.   Mubarak probably needed to be replaced, but it’s not clear that the end result was the best possible scenario for Egypt going forward.  Sometimes the mob chooses leaders who will continue to restrict the rights of their citizens in order to conform with Muslim fundamentalism and Sharia law.  If at the end of the day, the Muslim Brotherhood ends up controlling Egypt, then Egypt isn’t better off without Mubarak – it’s worse.

The choice should have been an easier one for President Obama in Iran.  The protesters should have been encouraged by this administration to stand up for themselves and their fellow citizens.  This was a missed opportunity.  It didn’t require the use of our military or working through the UN bloat-ocracy.  All that was required was a strong statement of support from the President of the United States.  That’s our role – no other country will fill that void.

Let’s start with this disclaimer.   I agree with the perspective of noted political humorist PJ O’Rourke who once opined that everybody screws up foreign policy – Republicans, Democrats…everybody.   I don’t believe that it’s possible to prevent every worse-case scenario on the national stage, whether it’s Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or North Korea.  But I do think that every President needs to have advisors who have the ability to think strategically and game-plan for the future.   This is more important than ever in these uncertain times, because every US action or inaction could irrevocably set off a series of events that can set the course of history for the next 10-20 years.

Does President Obama have a good team around team to help him navigate these rough international waters?

Newsweek’s Niall Ferguson says no:

I can think of no more damning indictment of the administration’s strategic thinking than this: it never once considered a scenario in which Mubarak faced a popular revolt. Yet the very essence of rigorous strategic thinking is to devise such a scenario and to think through the best responses to them, preferably two or three moves ahead of actual or potential adversaries. It is only by doing these things—ranking priorities and gaming scenarios—that a coherent foreign policy can be made. The Israelis have been hard at work doing this. All the president and his NSC team seem to have done is to draft touchy-feely speeches like the one he delivered in Cairo early in his presidency.

This is something that the President needs to consider – and learn from his mistakes by surrounding himself with the best people who understand the dynamics of the world we live in, so the next domino falling won’t catch the United States by surprise.

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.