Tag: Republican Party

Not Caring

Trump has named a Vice President: Mike Pence of Indiana. Ordinarily, this would be something I’d blog about. He’s an OK choice, if a bit to the Culture War side of things.

The convention has started with an apparent attempted rebellion. Ordinarily, this would be something I’d blog about. It’s a squeal of protest against Trump but it won’t go anywhere.

The thing I’m finding is that I just don’t care. I don’t care what the GOP does right now. I don’t care to blog about Trump’s circus act, at least for a while. This is a freak show that can match anything the Democrats have ever put up. This is Kanye and Taylor and Kim with trillion dollar budgets and nuclear weapons. If something interesting happens, I’ll talk about it. But I’m going to be blogging very little about the RNC this week because I just don’t care for the circus act.

Update: I will, however, be throwing rocks from my alternate ego:

Best of Lee: Brownie Moment

This was one of my favorite Leeisms:

I’d like to take a moment to coin a new phrase: Brownie Moment. A Brownie moment can be defined simply as the moment when a supporter of President Bush is smacked in the head by reality and loses any and all faith in the president from that moment forward. As you may have surmised the term comes from Bush’s recent comment regarding former FEMA head Michael Brown’s leadership in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

This was my Brownie moment. I understand that in the world of politics leaders often have to say things they don’t mean, or shake hands with dictators and scumbags, and do a lot of morally repugnant stuff. But when Bush said that I realized that after surveying the impotent, incompetent response of the federal government he truly, honestly believed that Brownie was doing a heck of a job. That sealed it for me. I’d been turning sour on Bush for a while, but I was still generally supportive of him. When I heard him make that remark, however, that was it. That was my Brownie moment.

I bring this up in light of the Miers nomination. There are a whole lot of head-scratching Republicans gazing at each other wondering what the hell just happened. Could Bush really have nominated this woman to the Supreme Court? Yes, my friends, he just did. I imagine there are a whole lot of conservatives out there today who have just had their very own Brownie moment.

I bring this up because it seems like a lot of Republicans are having “Trumpie Moments”. A lot of Republicans have been endorsing Donald Trump. This is not unusual, of course, parties endorse their nominees. Duh. But it’s come under extra scrutiny this year because Trump is not an ordinary candidate. He’s brash. He’s politically incorrect. The things he says are controversial and often have no relationship with the truth. He contradicts himself, sometimes in mid-sentence.

But Republicans have still endorsed him. Partly because they don’t want to be told what to do by the elite media. Partly because they see defeating Hillary as the most important thing in this election. Partly because they’re hoping he’ll become more Presidential as time goes on. Partly because they think this is an act and he’ll either govern moderately or just rubber stamp their legislation. And partly because they genuinely support him.

But with Trump’s poll numbers plunging, his tone not moderating, a bad money situation developing in the RNC, new polls indicating the House and Senate may be at risk, and indications that Trump is already planning a post-election TV network, a lot of Republicans are backing away from their endorsements or saying they won’t support him. Larry Hogan, Richard Armitage, Rick Snyder, John Kasich, Mark Kirk and Fred Upton are the most prominent names of what is becoming a stampede.

I think a lot of people are having “Trumpie Moments” right now. They’re realizing that his caustic tone isn’t an act, it’s who he is. They’re realizing that he’s bringing the same financial disaster to the RNC that he brought to his businesses. It’s getting so bizarre — Trump is apparently wanting to push hard in traditional blue states like California, rather than swing states like Ohio — that some people are openly wondering if he’s tanking the election. There’s enough defection right now, that Gary Johnson is polling in the low 10’s. If he gets to 15%, he’ll get into the debates (in theory; I suspect the media will find an excuse to keep him out).

This is bad. We can deal with President Clinton and a Republican Congress. But we can’t deal with President Clinton and a Democratic Congress. There’s four and a half months to go and a lot can happen. I make absolutely no predictions. But a year ago, I thought the Republicans would easily sweep this election and get another chance to be conservative. Now, we’re looking at the possible total crackup of the GOP and a Democratic sweep.

And yeah, I know some people are going to say that’s great, that the GOP needs to be burned down. These people are fools. I’ve quoted Charles Cooke before but it’s worth quoting again:

But the idea that it hasn’t effectively and consistently opposed President Obama’s agenda is little more than a dangerous and ignorant fiction. Had the GOP not been standing in the way — both from 2008, when it was in the minority everywhere, and from 2010, when it regained the House — the United States would look dramatically different than it does today. Without the GOP manning the barricades, Obamacare could well have been single payer, and, at the very least, the law would have included a “public option.” Without the GOP manning the barricades, we’d have seen a carbon tax or cap-and-trade — or both. Without the GOP manning the barricades, we’d have got union card check, and possibly an amendment to Taft-Hartley that removed from the states their power to pass “right to work” exemptions. Without the GOP standing in the way, we’d now have an “assault weapons” ban, magazine limits, background checks on all private sales, and a de facto national gun registry. And without the GOP standing in the way in the House, we’d have got the very amnesty that the Trump people so fear

I would add, as I noted before, that Obama wanted to spend $2.5 trillion that the GOP refused to spend, including $700 billion in 2015 alone.

It’s scary what Hillary Clinton would do, pulled to the far Left by Bernie Sanders and unfettered by a GOP Congress. The White House may or may not be a lost cause. As I said, we’ve got four months left. But the House and Senate are not lost causes. And the GOP needs to go all out protecting them. And any conservative or libertarian who values divided government should get on board.

What Spending Restraint Looks Like

In case you think government spending is out of control and the GOP RINOs and sellouts have given spendthrift Obama everything he wants, here’s some more data to chew on: over the last five years, we have spent $2.5 trillion less than Obama was projecting in 2009, including $697 billion less in 2015 alone. That’s the equivalent of having cancelled Medicaid. And, of course, those savings become baked into future projections, which means unfunded liabilities are down by trillions as well.

Is it perfect? No. It is a huge improvement? Absolutely. If the GOP had shown this kind of spending restraint while Bush was President, we would currently be running a $400-800 billion dollar surplus right now and the national debt would be about $8 trillion smaller. And that’s with the Obama stimulus included. Without, the numbers would be even further in the black.

Spending restraint. It works.

The Party of Trump

Because I am a glutton for punishment, I watched the GOP debate last night. It was much more “substantive” with less personal attacks. But “substantive” is relative term when Donald Trump is on the stage. Debating Trump on substance is like debating a goldfish: by the time he gets to the end of an answer, he’s forgotten what he said at the beginning. He said Iraq was a mistake but he would send more tens of thousands of troops to hit ISIS. He bashed Democrats for doing nothing about Social Security and then promised not to touch Social Security. He called the Tiananmen Square protests “riots” and refused to denounce violence at his own rallies.

But I’m getting into the weeds. The thing that really jumped out from last night debate was this: the GOP is becoming the Party of Trump, regardless of whether he’s the actual nominee or not.

For example: all the candidates on stage inveighed against free trade. The GOP used to understand that free trade was good for this country. Ted Cruz occasionally tried to make that point again: that the US has few trade barriers and that our trade deals mostly open markets for us in other countries. But the Sanders-Trump axis has latched onto American’s discontent with the economy and persuaded them that free trade is the name of their pain and the reason jobs have gone away.

It isn’t. Most of our manufacturing job losses are because of automation. Unless Donald Trump plans to physically rip robots out of factory floors — not completely impossible — that’s not changing. The real way to boost the job market in America is to make it easier to do business in America. Simplify regulations that destroy hundreds of billions of dollars in productivity and millions of jobs. Overhaul the corporate tax code that is equally damaging. Other countries are doing this; we’re going in the opposite direction, piling regulation upon regulation and tax code upon tax code. End that. Make America a place where it’s easy to do business. And corporations will stampede to do business here.

Trade tariffs are not “protection”. They’re a tax. They make everything we buy more expensive and don’t relocate a single job into this country. But the GOP has abandoned this.

And that was just one issue. On immigration, on foreign policy, on torture, on criminal justice, all the candidates came off as Trump Lite. That’s a mistake. If the voters have a choice between Trump and Trump-Lite, they will go with Trump. But no one on that stage had the gravitas to push back against Trumpism.

Between these two parties, I am convinced that, regardless of who wins the election, we are headed for another lost economic decade. No one outside of Paul Ryan seems to understand how hard it is to do business in this country and how many millions of jobs and billions in wages our tax and regulatory system destroy. No one wants to stand against anti-immigrant and anti-trade hysteria. No one seems to understand that getting more involved in the Middle East is a mistake. No one seems to understand or care about the pending budget crisis. We are caught between one party that wants to blow up the debt with tax cuts and spending and another that wants to blow it up with more spending and more spending.

Maybe the GOP can recover if someone manages to beat Trump. But that’s looking less and less likely. Look, I’m tired and I’m getting over a cold. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic. But watching last night’s debate, desperately hoping to see something to hpoe for after the big government dumpster fire that was the last Democratic debate, I felt like I looked into the abyss. And the abyss tried to sell me steaks.

Update: Rubio’s people today are urging their voters in Ohio to support Kasich so that Trump won’t win Ohio. Kasich (and Cruz) have declined to reciprocate.

I must say, this really impresses me. Rubio is putting the party and the country ahead of himself. Bravo.

It Might Be Trump

So Donald Trump won the Nevada caucuses last night and seems on ihs way to wins on Super Tuesday. I’ve made no bones about my feelings about Trump. Here’s Bill James, putting it succinctly:

Of all of the people who are running for President or have now dropped out of the race, Donald Trump is absolutely the last one that I would vote for. I could summarize the reasons for this in five bullet points:

(1) I believe that Trump is more interested in what is good for Donald Trump than in what is good for America, not that the same could not be said about many of the other candidates, but it seems to me that this has to be more of a concern in the case of a man who has spent 30 years plastering his name to everything he could put his name on

(2) I don’t think Trump’s background in business prepares him for the challenges of the Presidency

(3) I think Trump’s hard-ass approach to problems, in the Presidency, would be very dangerous for our nation, and might have terrible consequences for all of us

(4) I dislike self-promotion. I intensely dislike self-promotion. Donald Trump is the nation’s most notorious self-promoter—and was, before he decided to run for President.

(5) I don’t believe that Trump is sincere in 99% of what he says. I think almost everything he says is either an outright lie, or something he is merely saying because it is convenient for him at the moment

I’ve heard versions of that from a lot of Republicans. Hell, National Review ran an entire issue on the subject. And yet, Trump continues to win. Why is that?

Well, first, I think he is capitalizing on a general dissatisfaction with the party. A lot of people see the GOP as feckless and constantly caving into Democrats. Trump gives them a hope of a GOP that stands for something.

I understand this impulse. I’ve been frustrated with the GOP as well and left the party in 2004 (although that had less to do “fecklessness” and more with their very feckful decisions to turn to the Religious Right, support torture and spend like Democrats on a bender). But I think people massively underestimate what establishment conservatism has accomplished. Charles Cooke:

Not only have the vast majority of the stands that have been taken against Obama been futile from the outset (the president really isn’t going to sign a repeal of his major achievements, and the public really isn’t going to force him to do so at the point of a shutdown), but to focus on their failure is rather to miss the point, which is that the Right’s consistent willingness to block progressive change before it can be put into law has kept a parade of horribles from ever intruding upon the scene. Had the conservative movement not held the line since 2008, Americans would have seen the quick death of the Bush tax cuts; the introduction of a growth-stifling cap-and-trade regime on carbon dioxide emissions; sweeping gun control, including both an “assault weapons” ban and a federal firearms registry; the provision of a “public option” within Obamacare, if not a move toward full-blown single-payer; the false promise of “free” college; union “card check”; an unabashed de facto amnesty for illegal immigrants; wildly increased legal-immigration levels, with an emphasis on importing the unskilled; a host of religious-liberty violations, with no Religious Freedom Restoration Act to counteract them; and overall spending levels that would make today’s look modest.

Elsewhere — where no national veto is possible — things would have been dramatically different, too. At the state level, there would have been no marches toward right-to-work or liberalized concealed carry; no progress on school choice or eminent domain; no restrictions on late-term abortion or state-constitution amendments defining marriage; and none of the regulatory and fiscal reforms that are coaxing Americans out of the blue states and onto the red horizon. Despite voting unanimously against the bill, Republicans could not stop Obamacare. But they have managed to prevent Medicaid from being expanded universally, and they have mostly forced the federal government to own its messy system of insurance exchanges. That was no walk in the park. And in the courts? Well, without the two judges that George W. Bush appointed to the Supreme Court, we would have had no Heller, no McDonald, no Citizens United, no Harris, no McCullen, and no Hobby Lobby. Moreover, we would have read only two disgusted dissents in both Windsor and Obergefell, and, backed by a 7–2 cushion, the ruling justices might have been able to establish a more sweeping set of precedents than they did.

Cooke does admit that there are reasons to be unhappy with the GOP: the 2015 budget is a particular thorny point with me. But the “burn the whole thing down” crowd seem to miss what has been accomplished and what has been prevented by the GOP. How soon we have forgotten how bad things were when it was Obama and a Democratic Congress.

Another reason for Trump’s surge is a pushback against political correctness. Bill James again:

Also, Donald Trump is advocating real democracy in a way that the other candidates are not, and in a way that is too subtle for most of the Talking Head class to understand. We have in this great nation, blessed by God but not uniquely blessed by God, and not chosen by God to stand ahead of other nations. . . .we have a class of professional do-gooders who have made a lot of rules for the rest of us, and who have, with the knowing co-operation of the media, forced the rest of us to comply with their rules. These rules were never voted upon, and were never agreed to by most of us. Some of these rules are good and proper, and some of them are useless and counter-productive. I will explain a little better what rules I mean in just a moment, but first my main point.

Donald Trump is saying “screw you” to the professionally self-righteous, and he is saying “screw you” to those people who are trying to force him to obey these rules that the nation has never really agreed to, but has been forced to accept by leaders who lacked the courage to stand up to the professionally self-righteous.

It’s one thing to get people to stop hurling racial slurs or sexist remarks. But the media has turned us into a nation of thin-skinned lunatics. You can’t use the phrase “illegal immigrants” to describe … foreigners who are in this country in violation of the law. Students erupt in protest because a dorm supervisor treats them like adults who can deal with mild racism on their own. And God forbid we should act on the international stage without making sure France thinks its OK.

There is a backlash against this and people are eager for politician who disdains political correctness. The problem is 1) “saying it like it is” makes you feel good but can burn political bridges that you need; 2) the Trumpers are more than happy to get all offended when someone says something they don’t like; 3) people are mistaking Trump’s rudeness for a principled stance against political correctness rather than just Trump being an asshole.

The biggest factor in Trump’s rise, however, has been the divided GOP field. When we started out, there were 17 candidates, the largest field ever. Pundits praised the field’s depth, saying it reflected GOP strength. It didn’t. It represented weakness because with so many candidates, it was hard for any particular candidate to stand out.

Trump was able to stand out. He simply said outrageous things and let the media do his work for him. He would bash Mexicans, bash McCain, make sexist remarks … and the media would go into their politically correct outrage cycle. But the public didn’t care. The media were the boy who cried wolf. They had spent so long describing Republicans as racist for even mentioning illegal immigration than when a Republican said racist things, the public shrugged.

And so the cycle began — Trump says something crazy, the media have a frenzy, the attention brings him a surge in the polls. A huge amount of Trump’s rise is because of the perpetual media outrage machine that has surrounded him, giving him free publicity, making him stand out of the crowded GOP field. People who favored abortion restrictions or tax cuts or a strong defense had a variety of choices to pick from. Their vote was divided. But the anti-establishment, anti-PC crowd? They had their guy. And with every CNN fainting spell, every spittle-flecked 2000-word Vox article, every hand-wringing Slate pitch, he became more their guy.

They media has yet to cotton onto this. Every time Trump’s poll numbers stall, he says something vile. And every single God damn time, they take the God damn bait and give him hour after God damn hour of free publicity. They think, because they are so wise and erudite, that the American public shares their outrage. And some do. But there are many who are gleeful about it — who see the intelligentsia’s outrage as amusing and deserved. How many times have we hoped for a GOP candidate who would tell the media to pee up a rope?

And this is what has allowed him to surge. With 17 candidates, anyone who stood out for any reason was going to surge to the front of the pack. Not only would they build a base of support, the other candidates would divide what was left into a dozen pieces. Ask yourself, who has this primary season been about? Can you even name all the GOP candidates we started with? It’s been Trump and Not-Trump.

The GOP’s response has been too little too late. At first, they didn’t take him seriously. And then they avoided him. Non-Trump candidates spent the debates attacking each other. What we needed at the debates was, as Jesse Walker Matt Welch put it, a Murder on the Orient Express situation where they all stabbed him instead of waiting for someone else to do it. They all needed to call him a liar, a charlatan and a liberal (and he is all three). But they didn’t want to do that. They were so concerned with being the consensus candidate when Trump fell that they didn’t actually bother to make sure Trump fell. Instead, they tore each other down.

Trump does have a ceiling. His negatives among the GOP are very high. Usually, a candidate who had won three of the first four primaries would be running away from the field by now. If you look at past elections, Bush, McCain and Romney all began to take off at this point. Romney was in the lead at the end of February and took off by April. McCain had exploded at the polls by this point, surging past the field to become the clear winner by Super Tuesday. Trump has not taken off like that. He may yet. But he hasn’t so far. I think that reflects a deep distrust of him.

Unfortunately, Trump’s advantages still remain. He still dominates the news cycle because our stupid media still hasn’t caught on to his game. And the field is still divided. Rubio is surging but unless Kasich and Cruz drop out (and most of their supporters go to Rubio), he’s not going to catch Trump. And neither has indicated that he will drop out. Trump is in an unprecedented position — he could win the nomination while never having more than about a third of the party behind him.

(Carson hasn’t dropped out, but he’s not really relevant to this. Carson’s supporters would probably either drop out or split relatively evenly between Rubio and Trump).

For many years, my Aussie wife has disparaged the primary system. She sees it as destructive because the candidates spend time bashing each other instead of concentrating on building the party behind a candidate, like they do in a parliamentary system. She has a point. But I think we’ve now seen another problem. For a long time, I’ve been saying the GOP wouldn’t nominate Trump because they don’t nominate crazy. They will flirt with crazy. They will fool around in the back of a car with crazy. But, in the end, they will go with a sensible candidate like Romney. But now we’re seeing that the primary system can cough up a crazy person given the right circumstances.

The way I see it, we’re looking at three possible scenarios, all of them bad for the GOP. I rank them by how likely I see them.

1. Trump Wins a Plurality but Not a Majority of Delegates. Brokered Convention. The rules of delegate assignment are rather opaque and difficult to project. Nevertheless, it looks like Trump could keep winning primaries but split the delegates enough to not get a majority. The result would be a brokered convention where the candidates try to form alliances to build a majority.

Trump could still win in that scenario, since he’d control the largest block of delegates. But even if he didn’t, it could be a disaster for the GOP. If Trump wins a plurality of the delegates but a Rubio-Cruz ticket takes the nomination, the Trumpers might tear the party apart. It might make 1968 look like a picnic. And Trump would cite it as justification to break his promise and run as an independent, splitting the vote and putting Clinton into the White House.

2. Trump Wins the Nomination Outright. This would be almost as bad. It would tie the GOP to Trump for a generation, shattering any progress they’ve made building the party toward minorities and women. It would also, as Dan McLaughlin pointed on Twitter last night, undo everything conservatives have been building for 40 years. The GOP would nominate a supporter of Obamcare and an advocate of trade war, an obnoxious big-government hypocrite who has, in the past, supported massive taxes, gun control, wealth confiscation and single-payer healthcare. In combination with a Clinton win — or even with a Trump win in the general, it would be the inverse of the Reagan Revolution, turning this country back to big government in a way none of us have seen since Carter was in the White House.

And it would very likely come with a Clinton win. As big as Trump’s negatives are among conservatives, they are even higher in the general public. In the Bill James essay, he argues that Trump could win the nomination but get slaughtered in the general because you can get 1/6th of the country to act like idiots and nominate Trump. But getting the half the country to do it is much harder. And while it’s true that there are lot of idiots out there, many vote Democrat.

(On a side note, I am certain that many of the conservative pundits currently attacking Trump will fall in line should he be the nominee. The fell in line behind RINOs McCain and Romney and, faced with another Clinton presidency, I’m sure they will fall in line this time. Allahpundit thinks so too. In fact, I’m already seeing pieces on conservative websites that are basically, “Well, actually …”. Almost all of the the pundits will support him if he’s the nominee.)

3. Rubio surges and takes the nomination. This is what I’m hoping for. Regardless of whether I support the GOP or not — and I could this year — I want each party to have the best nominee possible. I’ve always despised Democrats voting in Republican primaries to nominate the worst Republican or vice versa. Because you never know what’s going to happen. I’m sure there are a lot of Democrats who would love Trump to be the nominee because they think it would make it easier for Clinton to win. But even though they are right that Trump would be an easier opponent, they are thrice-damned fools. Because Hillary Clinton could have a stroke tomorrow. Or she could just … not win. And the next you know, Donald Trump is in the White House.

You always want the least bad option to be on the table, whether you’re Democrat, Republican or The Rent Is Too Damned High. And Marco Rubio is a lot better than the least bad option. I could actually vote for him.

But … I think a Rubio win is very unlikely at this point. We keep getting told that Rubio can win this. And we keep waiting for him to actually win anything. Cruz and Kasich draw off enough support that it will be hard for him to catch Trump. And it would be unprecedented for someone to win three of the first four primaries and not win the nomination.

Even if Rubio did surge, the path to the White House would still be fraught with peril. Trump has shown that he is a sore loser. He might cry foul and either wreck the convention or run as a third party candidate.

The more I turn this over, the more I think this ends with Hillary Clinton in the White House. And I hate the thought of Hillary Clinton in the White House. Not because she’s a woman but because she’s a petty spiteful woman who has shown very little skill in either foreign or domestic policy. She’s the author of our disastrous Libya intervention, supported the collapsing Obamacare and has proposed ever more spending. She would nominate Scalia’s replacement (assuming the GOP sticks to their guns with Obama) and likely replace two retiring liberal justices with two younger ones, cementing a liberal majority on the Court.

And … I have to wonder if maybe that’s the entire point of Trumps’ candidacy.

Where I Am Right Now, February Version

So we had two more debates over the weekend. I won’t go blow-by-blow through them. Trump continued to be obnoxious. Bush punched back. Rubio and Cruz sparred, occasionally in Spanish. Kasich tried to set himself up as the adult in the room (not always successfully). Instead of going through that, I thought I’d lay out what my current impression is of the candidates and the order in which I would vote for them. I’ve put all the candidates in the list except for Ben Carson. The reason I’ve left Carson out is because I’m not sure what I make of him and I don’t think he’ll be in this much longer. The others should last at least through Super Tuesday.

So here’s my current preference for presidential candidates. Keep in mind that these rankings are fluid and could change significantly as the race progresses.


A Clown Car Without The Clown

Just a quick note on last night’s debate.

It was easily the best and most substantive debate we’ve had so far. The absence of Trump and presence of Megyn Kelly meant pointed tough questions for the candidates. Several of them did massively better. Rand Paul showed why I always liked him, giving an excellent answer on criminal justice reform and landing a few solid blows on Cruz. Bush looked better than he had in months, although it’s probably too little too late.

The big loser, in my mind, was Ted Cruz. Trump’s bloviating narcissism had the effect, in early debates, of making Cruz look good. Without that distraction, Cruz’s big flaws as a candidate were on display. He did a poor job explaining his flip-flop on immigration. The other candidates attacked him on various issues and were effective in doing so. This was his chance to make some headway on Donald Trump and he didn’t.

Really, this was the campaign we should have been having for the last four months, with Paul, Christie, Cruz, Rubio and Bush fighting it out for the heart of the party. It really highlighted just how badly the Trump Show has damaged the GOP’s chances.

The consensus this morning is that Trump was a big winner because he wasn’t there to get pinned on the issues while his rivals attacked each other. I’m not so sure, mainly because these are the same people who’ve been pronouncing Trump dead for the last year. If they think he did well, he must have done poorly. The caucuses are next week, so we’ll soon find out. But my suggestion for the future, if the GOP wants to recover, is to let the Donald sit out every future debate. They are way better off without him.

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.