Tag: Republican Party

RNC Whining vs. DNC Whining

After the last Republican debate, the GOP was miffed about the tone and content of the questions asked. Almost everyone thought the questions were terrible, that the commentators interrupted too much and the debate was even less informative than these things tend to be (all except Vox, because of course). In the wake of the debate, the RNC has suspended their partnership with NBC.

(One thing to clear up. This does cancel the broadcast of GOP debates on Telemundo, which is supposedly racist or something. But that’s a temporary thing. They could easily find another Spanish-language outlet. ABC has an association with Univision. Fox has their own Spanish-language channel. This is about NBC, not Telemundo.)

In the wake of this, every liberal outlet is bashing the GOP for “whining” about the debate. According to them, the Republicans are big babies. Their proof of this? Fox News asked tough questions too. But in making that comparison, they illustrate precisely the problem. Fox News’ questioning was pointed, but it was not ridiculous. It was managed well and it did not try to pit the candidates against each other or focus on trivial nonsense. At one point during the debate, Chris Christie got some of the biggest cheers of the night for castigating the hosts for asking questions about fantasy football. Everyone — liberal and conservative alike — thought Fox’s questioning was at least solid. No one — liberal or conservative — thought CNBC’s was.

But here’s the real rub. The Democrats did the same thing in 2007, withdrawing from a debate hosted by Fox News because, ostensibly, they didn’t like some things Roger Ailes had said about Obama. They couldn’t specify what precisely Ailes said, but they assured us that, whatever it was, it was really really bad. The really real reason, of course, was that they were pressure from MoveOn and other liberals orgs that hated Fox News. So the Democrats did not have a Fox News debate in 2008. And they won’t have one this year. I realize that the Left has decided that Fox News is Objectively Evil. But I can’t help but wonder … just a bit … if that decision was made because Fox News is the only news channel that would challenge the Democrats. Every other host — NPR, PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, F/X, ESPN, VH1, TLC, MTV, Disney, Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network, the Sci-Fi Channel, THC, NG, CSPAN — would be friendly to them.

So … who exactly are the whiners who can’t face tough questions?

Debate Three: CNBC Faceplants

I was carving pumpkins and doing other things last night, so only caught bits of the debate. So only a few thoughts:

First, it’s time to winnow the field. It’s been nice having this big collection of politicians around. But it’s time to end the silly fantasies and cut the field down to, at most, seven candidates.

Second, the biggest cheers were for attacking the moderators. The moderators did do a poor job and kept interrupting each other and the candidates. Going after them is a cheap cheer, but a fun one.

Third, my impression of the candidates? Trump is still a joke. Carson is nice but has little clue about policy. Fiorina can debate but has yet to advance a coherent policy platform. Bush is sinking rapidly. I don’t care for Cruz or Huckabee. And I’m unclear on what Kasich, Paul and Christie are still doing around. Rubio still crosses me as the best candidate.

One final point I want to make: I am sick of all these bullshit tax cut plans. Every candidate, it seems, has some plan to massively cut taxes. And they are all huge steaming piles of excrement.

Not a single one of those plans is likely to happen. And they never should happen because we are still running a deficit with huge obligations for Social Security and Medicare bearing down on us. If the Republicans cut spending far enough to start running a surplus, then we can talk about tax cuts. Until then, this talk of trillion dollar tax cuts is a good reason to not take any of these guys seriously. It’s a good reason to hope for divided government.

Revenue-neutral tax reform would be fine. In fact, you could actually have tax reform that increases revenue but benefits the economy by eliminating the deadweight loss of our tax code (e.g., Reagan’s 1986 tax reform). I am all in favor of a massive overhaul of our tax system. But not one that blows trillion dollar holes in our finances.

When I raise this point, the usual responses are that “the tax cuts will pay for themselves” or “we need to starve the beast”. The former is only true when tax rates are extremely high — 70-90%. Just ask Kansas. To makeup the revenue of these tax cuts, we would need growth rates in excess of 10%. No one thinks this is going to happen.

I have addressed the later theory before:

Starve the Beast was the theory that if we cut taxes, it would force the government to cut spending because the resulting deficit would be unsustainable (this was before people decided that the Laffer Curve was, in fact, the Laffer Line and that all tax cuts paid for themselves). Starve the Beast sounded tempting, especially to faux conservatives who were big on tax cuts and not so big on cutting spending. But it ran aground on several rocks:

First, spending cuts don’t just fall from the sky. You have to actually cut spending at some point. And the people who had to cut spending were the same people trying to force themselves to cut spending. It was like trying to lose weight by eating a box of doughnuts hoping that will force you to go the gym.

Second, the lesson Congress learned from Starve the Beast wasn’t that they couldn’t tolerate big deficits. The lesson they learned was that they could. As a result, we’re now enjoying our fourth straight year of trillion dollar deficits.

Third, and this is a point I keep harping on, Starve the Beast made spending painless for the taxpayer. This was especially true in the Bush years when we started two wars and put in a prescription drug program while removing millions from the tax rolls. The impression given to the taxpayers was that wars and drug programs were free, or at least were paid for by somebody else (somebody rich). It has continued in the Obama years, with spending and taxes being manipulated so that Obamacare appears to decrease the deficit when it, in fact, does not and tax hikes only acceptable if they hit the dreaded rich.

I keep saying this and I am going to keep saying it: the most important aspect of any government budget is that spending should hurt. Spending should hurt either in cutting other services or in raising taxes. If you aren’t doing either of those things, you are giving people government on the cheap. And they will have no incentive, none whatsover, to support spending cuts.

Would you turn down services that are discounted 40-100%?

One of the problems we face in balancing the budget is that spending cuts are popular in general and unpopular in detail. When you ask people what spending they support cutting, the only thing that even gets 50% is foreign aide. But a big reason for that is that, for most Americans, government spending doesn’t hurt them. They can support all these wonderful things confident that the money for it will come out of somebody else’s pocket.

Until one of these guys puts forward a concrete plan to cut spending and balance the budget, I’m going to ignore their NeverNeverLand tax cut proposals. And I’m not going to take them seriously as responsible conservatives. A responsible conservative balances the budget first. Then … maybe … he talks about tax cuts.

McCarthy Steps Aside

Kevin McCarthy was on the brink of being the GOP’s nominee for Speaker when he unexpectedly stepped aside this morning. Right now, it’s not clear who the GOP will nominate. A few scattered thoughts:

This is not “chaos” as fun as it is to pretend so. The House has a Speaker until they elect a new one.

It’s not clear why McCarthy backed out. There are a lot of rumors but he has said that the Freedom Caucus demanded things he couldn’t give them. What those things are is not clear but there have been rumbling from the Freedom Caucus about a another government shutdown or a debt ceiling crash.

I suspect they will find someone else soon and this will blow over very quickly. It a very Inside the Beltway thing.

Boehner Out

John Boehner is apparently resigning from Congress and stepping down as Speaker. I’ll most more as events warrant. We’ll have to see what the GOP does. I know a lot of people don’t like Boehner because he didn’t have enough government- and party-wrecking confrontations. He’s has had a delicate balancing act over the last few years. But I think he’s gotten a reasonable amount done with a Democratic President in charge. If the GOP goes with someone crazy — a non-zero possibility — that’s all the more reason to be nervous about a unified Republican government. Hopefully they’ll go with someone like Paul Ryan.

Governing is the art of the possible. Boehner wasn’t perfect but he found things to do that were possible. We’ll have to see if the next speaker is interested in that or is interesting in making big dramatic gestures that accomplish nothing (e.g., the recent effort to defund Planned Parenthood which was apparently part of the impetus for Boehner’s resignation).

Another Shutdown?


Congress is running out of time to agree on a spending plan that keeps the government open, as Republican leaders attempt to defuse the threat of another shutdown – this one over Planned Parenthood.

Dozens of conservatives in the House and Senate have already pledged not to vote for a spending bill that includes money for Planned Parenthood. But both House speaker John Boehner and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell have rejected such proposals, worried that moderate and independent voters may blame the Republican party for a government shutdown.

Ya think? Shutting down the government two years ago accomplished little but had some support from the public. Shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood will accomplish nothing and have almost no support (current polling shows 70-20 opposition).

This is entirely about Planned Parenthood. The parties are in agreement on the budget, which basically sustains the fiscal path that has cut the budget deficit by 70% over the last six years. Right now, the leadership are trying to schedule a separate vote on defunding Planned Parenthood. Even if that passes, however, the President would veto it. And even if he didn’t, Planned Parenthood would almost certainly sue over it. Most of their government money come via Medicaid, for medical services they provide to poor women (this does not include abortion, for which funding is forbidden). So this would amount to singling them out among many providers for activities which, so far, are not illegal. Moreover, stripping this funding would not stop a single abortion, since Planned Parenthood’s abortion business is a separate revenue stream.

I have no idea where the Republican Party is headed right now. The two men leading the polls are Donald Trump and Ben Carson, neither of whom has any experience and neither of whom has shown much policy knowledge. Meanwhile, the campaign of several promising governors — Christie, Perry, Walker — are imploding. And now we’re talking about a government shutdown to stop an admittedly unpleasant abortion provider from … also providing health services and birth control. And while the GOP is flailing around like this, the Democrats are getting ready to put forward Hillary Clinton or, God help us, Bernie Sanders, as a Presidential candidate.

Give the culture cons their vote on Planned Parenthood. But once that fails, just pass the damn budget. It’s one thing to shut down over spiraling deficits. I didn’t support the shutdown over Obamacare but at least that was partially defensible. But this … this is just silliness. And with an election coming up, it could prove to be very costly silliness.

Trump Implodes

If you had July 18th in the pool for when Trump self-destructed, collect your winnings:

Donald Trump ignited a political firestorm Saturday by questioning whether Sen. John McCain — who spent over five years as a prisoner during the Vietnam War — is a war hero.

By mid-afternoon, Trump tried to walk back his blunder on Twitter, saying “captured or not, all our soldiers are heroes!”

But his attempt at damage control seemed unlikely to diminish the anger his remarks had caused. They provoked an immediate outcry from his 2016 presidential rivals and the Republican National Committee, which has expressed concern about the impact his controversial remarks on immigration have had on the GOP brand.

The controversy began early Saturday afternoon, when Trump, speaking at a question-and-answer session at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, commented on McCain, with whom he’s recently feuded over illegal immigration.

“He is not a war hero,” Trump told pollster Frank Luntz, who was hosting the session.

“He is a war hero,” Luntz interjected.

“He is a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said, cutting him off. “I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you. He is a war hero because he was captured. OK, you can have — I believe perhaps he is a war hero.”

Let’s review John McCain’s record here. When we got into Vietnam, McCain requested a combat assignment. While on the Forrestal, he barely escaped with his life during the Forrestal fire and was injured trying to save another pilot. He then volunteered for combat duty again, during which he was shot down and captured.

“Shot down and captured” is a nice word for breaking both arms and a leg, being beaten by Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, bayoneted and put into the infamous Hanoi Hilton. He refused early release (the Vietnamese wanted to use his release for propaganda), which resulted in more torture.

No one — not even McCain’s harshest critics — questions that he was a war hero, both before his capture and especially during it. Trump, who appears to have received at least five deferments, including a medical one, should not be surprised with how people are reacting.

This is the problem with having a Presidential candidate who “says what he thinks”. Politics is the art of saying what you think without pissing off half the country. You frequently have to against what the majority of Americans want. If you look at some of our best Presidents — like Reagan — they had a way of expressing their point of view while not driving away the other party. They had a way of negotiating with foreign leaders while not driving them from the table. It’s a skill and a critical one. And I’ve seen no evidence that Trump has it.

I’m open a brash interloper who shakes things up. Hell, I’ve been a big fan of the Pauls for a while. I’m even a fan of third party candidates. I don’t think our budget would have gotten balanced in the 90’s if not for the Perot insurgency. But what is the issue that Trump’s trying to make noise about? Immigration? The economy? The deficit? Anything other than himself? Rand Paul is trying to open the party to young people and minorities. Marco Rubio has been trying to expand the party’s appeal to the middle and working class. Both of these men have done a good job this year of stating their views without driving anyone away. Who exactly is Trump trying to open the party to?

Trump won’t get the nomination, obviously. Despite “leading the polls” (i.e, drawing 17% in a big field based on name recognition), his negatives among the Republican party are off the charts. But the longer he is sucking up the oxygen in the room, the more likely it is that the Republicans establishment will panic and go with an ultra-safe candidate like Jeb Bush. And indeed, Jeb is getting the lion’s share of contributions right now.

I really hope this is the end of Trump’s publicity stunt, but I doubt it. He’s getting too much attention from the wing of the party that has long been dissatisfied with the leadership. It tells you how disaffected they are that they support someone like this:

In public statements, he has advocated government healthcare, a woman’s right to an abortion, an assault weapons ban, and paying off the national debt by forcing rich people to forfeit 14.25 percent of their total wealth. When the man married his third wife, he invited Bill and Hillary Clinton to the wedding, and he has given many thousands to their political campaigns and their foundation. He’s donated many thousands more that helped elect Democrats to the Senate and the House. And George W. Bush was “maybe the worst president in the history of this country,” the man said in 2008. “He was so incompetent, so bad, so evil.”

Look, I understand the frustration a lot of people have the GOP, especially on issues like immigration .We have a lot of problems right now that need to addressed: big future deficits, big current deficits, the bill coming due for Obamacare, a broken immigration system, a broken justice system, Russia rattling the saber, a brewing Sunni-Shia War in the Middle East. I like the idea of supporting an insurgent candidate but Trump is not that candidate. He’s a circus freak biting the heads of chickens. And his comments on John McCain are just the wool coming off of a few million eyes.

Trump In

Donald Trump just declared that he’s running for President this year, apparently as a Republican, in one of the oddest speeches I’ve ever seen from a Presidential candidate. God knows what he’ll do. He has been famous for really awful ideas, including a proposal for a wealth tax.

This is going to be highly entertaining to blog, but bad for the Republic in the long run. We now have 12 Republican presidential candidates. Some of them are serious (Bush, Rubio, Walker, maybe Kasich and Perry), some have interesting things to say (Paul), some are just engaged in ego-stroking and some are just insane.

If they don’t pull their shit together, Hillary is going to coast to victory.

What Now?

So now that the Republicans have taken back both houses of Congress, what should they do for the next two years? Nothing, argues National Review:

The desire to prove Republicans can govern also makes them hostage to their opponents in the Democratic party and the media. It empowers Senator Harry Reid, whose dethroning was in large measure the point of the election. If Republicans proclaim that they have to govern now that they run Congress, they maximize the incentive for the Democrats to filibuster everything they can — and for President Obama to veto the remainder. Then the Democrats will explain that the Republicans are too extreme to get anything done.

They’ll say that anyway. If the Republicans proposed poached eggs for breakfast, the Democrats would denounce them as dangerous extremists. And I don’t think NRO actually believes this argument because they later say Republicans should force the Democrats to filibuster/veto popular legislation.

Even if Republicans passed this foolish test, it would do little for them. If voters come to believe that a Republican Congress and a Democratic president are doing a fine job of governing together, why wouldn’t they vote to continue the arrangement in 2016?

Which brings us to the alternative course: building the case for Republican governance after 2016. That means being a responsible party, to be sure, just as the conventional wisdom has it. But part of that responsibility involves explaining what Republicans stand for — what, that is, they would do if they had the White House.

So the Republicans shouldn’t govern. Instead, they should gear up for 2016 to take the White House and Congress at which point they will … what? … concentrate on keeping power?

I’m sorry, but I really don’t care about the Republican Party one way or the other. Whether governing hurts or helps their prospects in 2016 is irrelevant to me and should be irrelevant to people who are not actual party operatives. We had a unified Republican government for six years and the result was the most massive expansion of government power since the New Deal.

No. What we want from the Republicans is progress. What we want is for them to turn back the tide of government expansion. What we want is for them to … what’s that word … govern? The Republicans are on probation right now. It’s up for them to prove themselves worthy of getting power back.

There is precedent for governing and winning elections at the same time: Republicans worked with President Clinton and kept Congress and won the White House twice as a result. But they didn’t win because they grandstanded. The won because the accomplished things — welfare reform, spending restraint, NAFTA — that made them worthy of winning all three branches of government.

Nick Gillespie:

Yet Republicans mistake the meaning of the midterms at their own peril. These elections were a particularly frank repudiation of Barack Obama and the past six years of failed stimulus, disastrous foreign policy, and rotten economic news. Even the president’s historic health-care reform remains a negative with voters. But if the GOP thinks it has a mandate to return to the equally unpopular bailout economics and social conservatism of the George W. Bush years, it too will be sent packing as early as the next election.

You should read Nick’s entire piece, which breaks down the polling to show a decisive shift against big-government, in every respect.

It’s not enough for the Republicans to not be Obama. “Not Obama” isn’t going to be a candidate in 2016. In fact, Obama won’t be a candidate in 2016 (savor that relief for a moment). If the Republicans want to earn our votes in 2016, they need to accomplish things. They need to prove themselves worthy. They need to show that they can get government out our hair, despite the man in the White House.

How does this break down into nuts and bolts? On the day after the election, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell laid out an agenda for the next two years. It includes approving the Keystone XL pipeline, tax reform and fast track trade authority. It also includes three changes to Obamacare: raising to 40 the hours needed to qualify as a full-time employee for the employer mandate, exempting veterans from counting toward the 50-employee mark that triggers the coverage mandate and repealing the medical device tax.

These are all OK ideas and some of them — like fast track trade authority — are supported by the President. But it’s kind of small potatoes. It’ll make a nice first month, but it’s not exactly the Contract with America. I would prefer something a bit bolder.

This would involved finding things that the Democrats or the President will support. There’s a strain of thought among conservatives, exemplified by the NRO piece above, that working with Democrats will give “legitimacy” to Obama. Nuts to that. The country needs things done. And if we can the President on board, great.

But the Republicans should also pass legislation they know will be filibustered or vetoed. This could give the Democrats something to talk about in 2016 (“look at the extreme legislation we blocked!”). But I think it more likely, if Republicans are smart … OK, if they’re not too dumb … OK, if they’re not completely stupid … that it would give the Republicans something to run on in 2016. It would give the American people something to vote for, not just something to vote against. When the Republicans have run on a positive agenda — Reagan in 1980, Newt in 1994 — they have done well.

As for specific issues: the first on that list would be entitlement reform. The President has indicated that he is open to it. It’s time to call his bluff. The deficit has been shrinking in recent years but will soon begin to blow up as the bill for Baby Boomer retirees comes do. The time to act is now, before we are back in the land of trillion dollar deficits.

A lot of Republicans worry that overhauling Medicare and Social Security will open them up to attack from the Democrats. But here’s the thing: that’s going to happen anyway. The number of elections that have not included a Democrat “mediscare” campaign over the last forty years is precisely zero. The Democrats are going to demonize Republicans anyway. At the very least we could get something out of it. And if it costs the Republicans some seats, so be it. It would be worth it to slice trillions off our debt.

The counter-argument is they should wait until the Republicans have the White House as well. That way, they won’t have to compromise with Democrats and accept a tax hike or defense spending cuts in return for entitlement reform. I find that hope ridiculously optimistic. It assumes that Republicans will take the White House and keep the Senate. And it assumes that they will take the political risk of entitlement reform once they have full power, which I find unlikely.

Act now. At the very least, call the President’s bluff. Then you’ll have something to run on in 2016.

The second priority should be regulatory reform, which is sucking a couple of trillion dollars out of the economy. Probably the most important regulatory reform is the repeal of Sarbanes-Oxley, which is strangling our economy, halting IPOs and a nightmare for businesses. It’s the poisonous spider at the center of the web of economic malaise. President Obama will probably oppose this. Good! Make him stand with the bureaucrats and trial lawyers! Over 60% of the American people think regulation is too onerous, including many independents. This is a winning issue for Republicans.

Third would be an overhaul of the patent and copyright laws which are strangling innovation. The Republicans are open to this and the President is too, despite fierce opposition from trial lawyers. Reform could be passed in the first few months of 2015.

Fourth, an overhaul of our drug policy, specifically a recognition of state laws on medical and recreational marijuana. The President has occasionally made noises on this and a majority of Americans now favor pot legalization. The Republicans can get ahead of the Democrats on this by embracing a federalist approach: states that keep pot illegal will still have the aide of the DEA in keeping it illegal; states that make it legal will be left alone. I have little hope the Republicans will do this, but it would be a great step for them.

Fifth, an overhaul of Obama’s anti-terror powers. Justin Amash and Rand Paul give me hope that the GOP may be open to this. The best thing about reigning in Obama’s police state would be exposing the lie that the Democrats are the party of civil liberties and personal freedom.

That’s just for starters. There are other things: more spending cuts, reigning in Obama’s foreign policy and executive power excesses, a symbolic repeal of Obamacare (symbolic because it will be vetoed). But I see the above as doable and I see it as proving the GOP’s supposed small-government bona fides. If they’re serious, they will do something along these lines.

I have no doubt that the Republicans will run into opposition from the President. In fact, his petulant press conference seemed to promise that he would do what he wants on issues like immigration and only invite cooperation on his agenda. We’ll see what happens behind closed doors. This President has, on occasion, compromised with Republicans. But he has also been willing to take a my-way-or-the-highway approach, particularly when he had Congress for the first two years (Republicans were invited only to tweak details of Democratic legislation; kind of like being asked which arm you want the shark to bite off).

But if the President is determined to pursue his agenda and won’t cooperate, then pass the legislation anyway. Force him to veto it. Force him to oppose. Force his party to go on record as the party of bigger taxes, more government and no reform. Force him to tie his former Secretary of State and Heir Apparent to his unpopular agenda.

That’s something you can run in 2016. That’s something that might bring my vote in 2016. Until then, I will remain skeptical of the GOP and their commitment to small government.

Bad Plebs! Bad bad plebs!

So last night was a big deal for the Republicans. In the Senate, they surged to 52 seats, with one run-off (Louisiana) and two races that are too close to call (Alaska and Virginia). We’re probably looking at 53-54 seat majority. They will probably also gain about ten seats in the House. They won governor’s mansions in Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts. They lost Pennsylvania mostly because Corbett was extremely unpopular (and deservedly so).

On ballot initiatives, fetal personhood was rejected in two states, legal pot won in two states (and fell shy of supermajority in Florida). Minimum wage hikes also passed in four states.

Anyway, the best part of any election is always the rending of garments, gnashing of teeth and making of excuses by the losing side. Here are just a few things I have learned since the Republicans won the election last night, with my responses in italics:

We shouldn’t be having midterms anyway (For example, the 2006 midterm: WTF?).

The Republicans only won because of evil dirty money (The Republican spending advantage was about 10%. Democrats raised nearly $2 billion in campaign funds).

The Republicans only won because young people didn’t turn out (This is what happens when you confuse the Cult of Obama with a Permanent Democractic Majority).

The Republicans only won because they suppressed the black vote (The Republicans also elected the South’s first black senator in South Carolina).

This was not a rejection of any liberal ideas. (If you identify liberal issues solely by the ones that are popular, sure. But while the public may broadly agree with the Democrats on some specific issues, they disagree with massively with the Democrats’ performance.)

Republicans only won because the adopted liberal positions. (You should read that article, because it basically agrees with everything we’ve been saying: that Democratic policies harm the causes they supposedly support.)

Republicans only won because of redistricting (Apparently, you can redistrict states now).

Democrats only lost because of hate and racism (That’s half true. People do hate $18 trillion in debt and skyrocketing insurance rates).

Republicans only won because the map was unfavorable (It’s the same map Democrats won on six years ago.).

The next few are from various comments sections and I’ll just throw up there for the LOLs:

Republicans only won because we don’t have mandatory voting. Republicans won because of the skewed the polls, making Democrats overconfident. Democrats lost because they didn’t run on their awesome liberal record. Republicans won because they lied about Obama’s record. Republicans won because they had more virgins to sacrifice to the great electoral god, Gerrymaunderkin.

Ok, I made that last one up.

For what it’s worth, I think Republicans won for a variety of reasons. They put together a broader and more appealing party; they stayed away from divisive issues and concentrated on the economy; they let the Democrats beclown themselves. But mostly, I think, it was simple fatigue. The country is tired of Barack Obama. It is tired of Nancy Pelosi. It is tired of Harry Reid. Hell, I’m tired of blogging about them. These three clowns have dominated our politics for almost a decade now and the American people are tired of them. They aren’t over-eager for the Republicans. But the new faces of the GOP — Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Scott Walker, John Kasich, etc. — are certainly a lot less depressing than the Democrats.