Weekly Musing 2-1-15

Weekly Musing 2-1-15

Saul Anuzis

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney to the GOP: I Won’t, But I Could Have…

In the end, Mitt Romney made the decision that most Republicans expected him to do when he was denying any interest in a presidential campaign last year. But his announcement made it clear how close he was to saying yes, how tantalizing he found the prospect of a third-straight presidential campaign, and how unenthused he is about the GOP alternatives.

He offered only a lukewarm endorsement of the other GOP candidates, saying on a conference call to supporters that “it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee.” On the call, he dwelled on all the polls showing him with strong numbers, even rebutting skeptics that suggested his support would drop once he entered the race. He touted the team of supporters he’d been putting together in preparation of a possible run.

Romney’s decision ends a three-week roller-coaster ride for his advisers, allies, and supporters, most of whom sprung into action when he announced to financiers in Manhattan three Fridays ago that he was considering another campaign. The consensus among Romney loyalists, as he headed to San Diego the next week for a speech to the Republican National Committee, was that he was planning to run in 2016.

In the weeks since, conversations with a handful of longtime Romney allies reflected enormous uncertainty. Many former Romney operatives were “on ice,” waiting for him to signal a definite return to the political arena. But that sign never came.

“Romney realized the old rule: The best day of the campaign is your first and last. Everyone who was cheerleading him on were followed by a good number of people who told him it would end up being a giant family feud,” said Republican strategist Rick Wilson.


After Mitt: A GOP Message of Incentives, Sound Money and Growth

Mitt Romney showed once again that he is truly a class act. In his announcement that he will not be running for president in 2016, he stated, “I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee.”

This was unusual political humility. But let me highlight this specific phrase: “one who has not yet taken their message across the country.”

If there’s anything the GOP needs — besides a winner — it’s a confident, incentive-based, pro-growth message. The party didn’t have one last year, but it won the midterms thanks to President Obama’s ineptness. That won’t be enough in 2016.

… So the next Republican candidate should state a desire for the Fed to return to a market-based discipline using gold, commodities, dollar-exchange value and bond-market indicators. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the King Dollar comeback, along with falling energy prices, has not only delivered a tax-cut effect to consumers, it’s reduced all business production costs, making the economy more competitive. GOP candidates should not be afraid to talk sound money. It’s pro-growth.

They also must focus laser-like on the importance of incentives to grow the economy. For instance, rather than propose spending roughly $1.6 trillion on child tax credits (according to the Tax Policy Center), Senator Marco Rubio, an otherwise sound thinker, would be better advised to propose a flattening of marginal tax rates to perhaps 15 and 28 percent. This would give everyone in the middle class larger tax savings and stronger incentives to keep more of the extra dollar they earn.

President Obama doesn’t understand that taxing capital is a negative for new businesses, jobs, incomes and family spending. But Republicans should make darn sure they have a completely different vision.

And the GOP must recognize it can’t outbid the Democrats on lower- or middle-class benefits. Instead, they can talk incentives: If it pays more to work than to collect food stamps, or unemployment insurance, more people will work. The incentive model carries over to education and health care, where choice should be maximized. And Romney is right about this: Marriage is a key answer to poverty.

We’re about a year away from the first Republican primaries. The GOP has a solid bench. But the wannabes must get cracking on the central growth message of incentives, freedom of choice and sound money to unleash a new wave of American prosperity.


What If No One Wins the GOP Presidential Nomination?

Normally, I dread commenting on presidential nomination contests. But as much as I might like to return to the days of short presidential nomination processes (Franklin Roosevelt didn’t declare his intention to seek a third term until the summer of 1940), the reality is that the year-long nomination process is here to stay, and it is time to start writing on it.

But in truth, I’m actually hopeful about this year’s campaign, because I think it could be unlike anything we’ve seen in a very long time. I think the Republican Party really could wind up with a brokered convention – that is, a race where no candidate receives a majority of the delegates by the end of voting. In fact, it might well be the most likely outcome, if only because no particular outcome is particularly probable.

This race is intriguing not just because of one possible outcome. It is interesting because it is difficult even to formulate a workable theory of the race. Charlie Cook uses a brackets metaphor, while Jim Geraghty and Larry Sabato think of the race in terms of tiers, but all of these have problems. Instead, I see a race that is largely chaotic. It is one where an unusually large number of candidates have perfectly plausible paths, if not to the nomination, then at least to lengthy runs deep into the balloting process.

This is because 2016 really is the deepest GOP field in a very, very long time. In fact, it isn’t even close. To be clear, that doesn’t mean that eventual candidate is (or will be) the strongest Republican nominee ever. I think that’s unlikely, and in fact, that is crucial to my analysis. It just means that number eight is unusually strong. In 1996, eighth place in Iowa was businessman Morry Taylor. In 2008, it was Alan Keyes (who placed fourth in 2000). This year, eighth place will probably be a candidate we now see as a legitimate contender for the nomination.


Senate’s swing-state Republicans break ranks – 2016 electoral map complicates life for new Senate majority.

Just three weeks into Mitch McConnell’s reign as Senate majority leader, he’s already confronting the challenges of running a caucus filled with blue-state Republicans who face reelection next year. They’ve begun departing from the GOP stance on issues like energy and climate change — a move that lets them espouse independence back home, but also exposes divisions that are bound to intensify as 2016 draws nearer…

The Senate’s dynamic was on display in a series of amendment votes over the last week on the Keystone XL oil pipeline: New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, one of the Democrats’ top targets in 2016, repeatedly broke with her party, including by opposing efforts to hamper Obama’s international climate negotiations. Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk was the lone Republican to back regulations on petroleum coke, a byproduct from oil refining. And conservative Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey was one of 15 Republicans to endorse a statement that humans contribute to climate change.

…What makes this class of Republican senators particularly vulnerable is the expectation that they will be running in a far different climate in 2016. When they won their elections in 2010, the political environment heavily favored Republicans, as the rise of the tea party and fears over Obamacare drove GOP turnout in the midterm elections. But with the presidential race driving a larger number of voters in 2016, and Democrats hopeful that Hillary Clinton will draw women to the polls, Republicans could face a daunting path to holding the majority. The GOP has 24 Senate seats in contention, compared with the Democrats’ 10.

The dynamics put blue-state Republicans like Kirk in a tricky spot. To pull off a victory, the former 10-year House veteran will have to show he can work with Democrats and espouse moderate credentials, without leaving himself vulnerable to a primary challenge.


2016 Presidential

The GOP Bracket Challenge – There are at least four distinct types of Republican presidential candidates battling for 2016 supremacy.

Those who avidly follow politics always seek clarity and understanding, simply to figure out what is likely to happen. At this point, at least on the Republican side, we’re all going to have to accept that this presidential nomination fight is going last a very long time with no clarity on the horizon.

Despite the best efforts of Republican National Committee members and Chairman Reince Priebus to shorten a process that just about everyone acknowledged went way too long in 2012, this contest is likely to go very long as well. It may not take on the appearance of The Gong Show—the wacky late-1970’s TV game show populated by contestants with dubious, if any, talent—as much as 2012 did, but it is very difficult to see anyone emerging early as a clear favorite for the Republican nomination.

While it’s pretty safe to say that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a huge favorite to win the Democratic nomination, my hunch is that even if we absolutely knew today that she would be the nominee, at some point along the way, Clinton will stumble or someone else briefly catch fire, introducing some real element of doubt about the outcome. Whether it is Clinton having been out of the campaign game for a long time and needing time to get back into the political rhythm, simply resistance to the inevitability of her nomination, or even a real revolt on the far left of the party, it is unlikely that she will make it from the opening gate to the finish line without a stumble or spirited challenge.

But it is the Republican contest that today looks more likely to dominate attention. My current theory (in my business you have to have a theory or schematic of an upcoming race) is that there are at least four brackets of candidates and Republican voters, with a competition between GOP contenders to win a spot in the nomination semifinals.

First there is the establishment bracket, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and possibly former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney competing for that semifinal slot. Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina would likely fit into this group. GOP nominees traditionally come from this bracket.

Then there is the conservative governor/former governor slot—with, potentially, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker competing, all seeking to be non-Washington and non-Congress candidates, but each with more conservative, or at least better conservative, credentials than Bush, Christie, or Romney. In this anti-Washington environment, being able to say that you effectively governed, in contrast with Congress and Washington, certainly has some advantages among the non-purist conservatives.

In the third bracket are the more identifiably tea-party candidates, principally Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, but also former Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, possibly former 2008 vice presidential nominee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and even real-estate mogul Donald Trump (though both Palin and Trump are unlikely to make it past the first lap if they end up entering at all). This bracket is for the “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” conservatives.

Finally, there is the social, cultural, and religious conservative bracket, made up primarily of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, tapping into the same feelings as the third group but with a distinctly moral dimension.


GOP’s Top 10: Introducing the Fox News First 2016 Power Index

Yes, yes. We know. It is 53 weeks until the start of the first 2016 nominating contest and more than six months until the first Republican presidential debate. But despite a lot of big talk about contenders waiting until later to jump in, two big-name candidate forums and a spate of buzz-generating announcements over the past weekend proved that there would be no delay in the start of this cycle. And so the time has come for the making of lists and the inaugural Fox News First 2016 Power Index.


Don’t count out the non-establishment Republicans

The political chattering classes, who love a good story, are obsessed with the battle for the establishment choice for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination: Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney or throw in a little Chris Christie.

Bush and Romney are marquee names in U.S. politics and the Republicans haven’t nominated an anti-establishment candidate since Barry Goldwater more than a half century ago.

Yet there is an equally interesting, and perhaps as important, struggle for the movement-conservative or non-establishment crown. There is a sizable segment of Republican voters who believe it’s time to break that 50-year run.

This time, these candidates are a remarkably diverse group whose central commonality is that they aren’t the favorites of the Republican political establishment or Wall Street and other major business backers of the party.

They include Rand Paul, a limited government libertarian; the social conservatives Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum; Sen. Ted Cruz, the combative and most forceful foe of immigration reform; a national security neoconservative, Sen. Marco Rubio; governors in and out of office; as well as the latest darling of the tea party crowd, Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon who has never run for office.

The political right believes its prospects of winning are enhanced by this diverse field, which seems more formidable than in the past, when it contained aspirants such as Herman Cain, a pizza executive, magazine publisher Steve Forbes and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

“The movement conservative field is much stronger this time,” says Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition.


Ted Cruz Big Flag

Ted Cruz Details ‘Path to Victory’ for ‘Epochal Fork in the Road’ 2016 Election with ‘Miracle of America’

Cruz introduced a new major theme, the “Miracle of America,” in his speech to the thousands of Iowans gathered at the event hosted by Citizens United and Rep. Steve King (R-IA).

“What I want to talk to you about today is reigniting the Miracle of America,” Cruz said in his speech in the Hoyt Sherman Place theater in downtown Des Moines. “This country was built on an extraordinary miracle. The Miracle of America began with a revolutionary idea—which was that our rights, they don’t come from government. They come from God almighty. The Constitution, as Jefferson says, serves as chains to bind the mischief of government.”

He used the phrase, “Miracle of America, many more times throughout the speech, and after almost every line, Cruz earned loud applause from the thousand-plus in the room.

When asked to explain the meaning of the phrase during his exclusive interview with Breitbart News backstage, Cruz said that it signifies the “extraordinary challenge” Americans are facing over the next two years—and the importance of how big of a deal it is to actually fight for those values laid out by America’s founders. Cruz said:

We’re facing a time of extraordinary challenge right now and over the next two years. Americans need to come together to reignite the ‘Miracle Of America.’

The Miracle of America consists of the principles this country was founded on, first and foremost that our rights come from God Almighty—not from government—and that the Constitution serves, as Jefferson puts it, as chains to bind the mischief of government.

Secondly, the unlimited opportunity of free men and free women to achieve their dreams—if you’re single mom waiting tables, if you’re a teenage immigrant washing dishes, the miracle of America is that you too can achieve your heart’s desire with hard work and diligence. Anything is possible.

Third, American exceptionalism—that we are a unique nation, the indispensable nation on earth, a clarion voice for freedom that we will speak for liberty, for truth. That we will be as Reagan put it, a shining city on a hill.


The Kochs put a price on 2016: $889 million The Koch brothers’ operation intends to spend $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 elections — a historic sum that in many ways would mark Charles and David Koch and their fellow conservative megadonors as more powerful than the official Republican Party.

The figure, which more than doubles the amount spent by the Republican National Committee during the last presidential election cycle, prompted cheers from some in the GOP who are looking for all the help they can get headed into a potentially tough 2016 election landscape.

But while the leaked details seemed in part a show of defiance to Democrats, who had targeted the brothers as bogeymen, the spending goal also appeared to be a show of dominance to rival factions on the right, including the RNC.


Barack Obama, Empire Builder – Not since the 1930s and early 1940s have we seen so many malevolent empires on the rise.

Empires can rise and fall quickly. After World War I, the Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian Empires abruptly collapsed amid military defeat, rising nationalism, and revolution.

Yet on the eve of World War II four new empires suddenly grew out the wreckage of old Europe and Asia. A weak Italy under Fascist Benito Mussolini in just a few years grabbed much of East and North Africa, as well as the Dalmatian coast. Hitler’s so-called “Third Empire” carved off Austria and strips of Eastern Europe — and planned to go to war for more. The Soviet Union absorbed the Baltic states and southern Finland. Japan declared first Manchuria, and then Southeast Asia, part of its new “Co-Prosperity Sphere.”

But by the war’s end in 1945, the Japanese and Italian empires had collapsed. So did the Third Reich — and soon the British Empire as well. The Soviet implosion in 1991 was expected by very few.

We are now in an equally turbulent age of rising empires — mostly due to a new American indifference and passivity. Or, to put it more exactly, President Obama believes that his own legacy rests with avoiding all confrontations overseas, withdrawing as many troops as he can, and cutting the defense budget as much as Congress will allow so as to use the funds to address supposed inequality at home. If chaos results abroad, he can either blame his predecessor, George W. Bush, or assume that his successor will have to deal with what he wrought — or both. Obama is running out the clock of his presidency on the premise of Après moi, le déluge.


Federal Budget Deceit

The problem—and it’s a big one—with that statement is that federal spending in 2015 is projected to be $138 billion higher this year than it was in 2009 ($3,656 billion this year compared to $3,518 in 2009).

Think about that! Spending is higher than it was but the media says spending cuts are the reason for declining deficits.

USA Today was not alone in making this mistake. It’s the way the story line comes from official Washington and it conveys a misleading impression of why deficits are lower today. Too many reporters have become part of official Washington rather than translating the official statement into the language of everyday Americans.

A translation would note that federal spending has remained relatively stable in recent years following a huge jump in 2009. Deficits are down today because federal tax collections are now more than one trillion dollars higher than in 2009 ($3.2 trillion this year compared to $2.1 trillion in 2009).

Keep all this in mind when reviewing media coverage of the president’s budget proposal.


China Diplomacy

China’s Alternative Diplomacy – China has just made its biggest foreign policy adjustment in 25 years.

Chinese president Xi Jinping has certainly kept China experts busy since he came to power in 2012. Xi has made major changes to Chinese policies, domestic and foreign. These policies have been quite different from those of his predecessors, keeping China scholars occupied explaining their meaning and implications. This has been particularly evident in the foreign policy sphere. China watchers have been combing through the details of the new initiatives and proposals Xi has recently introduced, such as “One Belt, One Road” (1B1R) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Even though these new initiatives are still under construction, the fact is that this has been the biggest foreign policy shift in Beijing since 1989. The bigger question here is, what is the grand strategy behind Xi’s plans?

I call it China’s “alternative diplomacy.” Xi’s strategy is a sophisticated and progressive one. Instead of directly challenging the current existing international institutions, the Chinese are trying to create new platforms that Beijing can control or substantially influence. Through these new initiatives, Beijing aims to create a new international environment that is more favorable to China, one that will limit strategic pressures from the United States. Beijing wants to gradually take progressive, but not provocative, steps forward in these endeavors. On the surface these steps aim only to further economic development enterprises, and Beijing is trying to promote them as pure economic and trade initiatives. Below the surface, however, Beijing is trying to work for China’s greater security and long-term strategic objectives.

… On the surface, “one belt, one road” simply addresses a far-reaching economic development plan and focuses on improving trade, infrastructure and connectivity in this region. The new Silk Road Economic Belt will link China with Europe through Central and Western Asia, and the so-called 21st Century Maritime Silk Road aims to connect China with Southeast Asian countries, Africa and Europe. The real purpose of this initiative, however, is security. China is using this plan as an attempt to improve relationships with its Asian neighbors. Its neighbors in East and Southeast Asia meanwhile hope this initiative will help mend relationships after much divisiveness over the South China Sea in recent years. China is also looking to increase friendly dealings with countries in Central Asia and West Asia. Its reasons are twofold. First, it simply wants greater access to resources, specifically oil and gas. The second relates to China’s trouble with the Muslim population in western China, especially the Uyghur separatists who have connections with Central and West Asian countries. Beijing hopes this initiative will help in dealing with these security challenges by gaining better support and collaboration from the governments of the Central and West Asian Countries.

“One belt, one road” can also be seen as China’s first formal response to the United States’ Asia pivot. Since the U.S. announced its Asia rebalance policy the Chinese have perceived it as a major threat to its security. While making Beijing very uncomfortable, for several years there has been no direct response in the form of policy or behavior from Beijing. In fact, 1B1R is China’s own Asia pivot. Beijing is in a manner masking the real intent of the proposal to avoid a direct confrontation and challenge to the U.S. rebalance. Beijing has been smart in borrowing the Silk Road moniker to name the initiative, reducing the sensitivity of the geopolitical connotations, and the PRC government has refused to agree that the initiative is China’s Marshall Plan.


This is scary… This is what happens when a civilian kills a cop during a no-knock drug raid

…in most cases, Americans who kill a narcotics officer during a drug raid are vigorously prosecuted—even if the evidence indicates that they genuinely believed they were acting in self-defense and the raid was not justified.

…A very similar incident occurred in Burleson County, Texas on December 19, 2013, when a SWAT team carried out a no-knock drug raid on the home of Henry Magee (who is white). An informant had claimed that Magee had a major marijuana-growing operation, and during the raid, Magee shot and killed one of the officers, Adam Sowders. Although Magee stressed that he believed he was being robbed and had no idea he was shooting at police officers, he was facing the possibility of being prosecuted for capital murder. But in February, a grand jury decided that Magee legitimately believed he was acting in self-defense—and Magee was not indicted. The Magee case has been referenced in a Change.org petition urging prosecutors to “please drop the capital murder and attempted murder charges against Marvin Louis Guy.” The petition notes that Guy thought he “was defending his wife and home, just as Magee believed he was doing.”


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