Weekly Musing 4-12-15

Weekly Musing 4-12-15

Saul Anuzis

Ted Cruz Big Flag

“GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz vaulted to the top tier of the 2016 money race Wednesday, as supporters announced that super PACs backing his bid had raised $31 million in a single week.

The haul — which ranks as one of the biggest fundraising surges in modern presidential history — served as a sudden wake-up call for the rest of the likely Republican field, particularly Jeb Bush, who until now had enjoyed his status as the premier fundraiser in the contest’s early stage.”


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Rand Paul

Rand Paul Announces for President

The Best Reason to Take Rand Paul Seriously Has Nothing to Do With His Politics

Paul’s (relative) unorthodoxy makes him that rare candidate whose policy views draw gobs of media attention: He’s teaming up with Democrats to scale back mandatory-minimum drug sentencing and likens the war on drugs to Jim Crow? (The same Rand Paul who once said he opposed parts of the Civil Rights Act?) He’s in the same party as Senator John McCain, and yet he opposed arming the Syrian rebels?

But in fact, it’s the boring details of the organization that Paul is building that provide the best reason to take him seriously. If Paul’s views are unusually idealistic, the ground game that his team is planning is pure realpolitik. His staff is focused on the delegate math and party rules that could determine the next Republican nominee — a game-theory style of presidential politics at which the Paul team is particularly adept.

The process by which presidential candidates are nominated is, at its most basic level, a race toward a magic number of party delegates — in the Republican Party’s case, 1,235 required to win — amassed state by state and, in some cases, congressional district by congressional district. Getting them depends not only on the speechifying, door-to-door vote-hunting and million-dollar ad buys we associate with campaigning, but also on a bewildering array of procedural minutia: obscure national bylaws that overlay a mind-bending patchwork of local rules that can vary drastically from state to state, some of which award delegates not based on votes received in primary elections but on back-room wrangling at local party conventions and meetings that take place weeks or even months after votes are cast.


Ted Cruz’s Really Big Show Texas senator Ted Cruz was the last major speaker at the National Rifle Association’s Leadership Forum on Friday – an indicator that NRA convention organizers knew attendees would stay in their seats until the end to hear him. Cruz’s dynamic speech, and the attendees’ enthusiastic response, offers one more example of how the senator whose style often irked his colleagues is riding that style to top-tier status in the opening weeks of the 2016 GOP presidential campaign. …Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, and other candidates are attempting to emulate Cruz’s no podium, no teleprompter, no-notes, earpiece-microphone speaking style he showcased at the 2012 Republican convention. (The speech was nothing special, but Cruz’s ability to deliver it, entirely from memory and naturally while walking back and forth upon the stage, worked.)

…To rock-ribbed conservatives eager for red meat, Ted Cruz’s role in the government shutdown and other high-stakes fights that didn’t turn out so well for Republicans is a strength, not a weakness. His message going forth is going to be, hey, I fought when no one else was willing to do it. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/416800/ted-cruzs-really-big-show-jim-geraghty

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz’s serious — and seriously underestimated — fundraising machine

Ted Cruz has hit pay dirt — and he might have Jeb Bush to thank.

In his first week as a presidential candidate, the Texas senator raked in more than $4 million for his campaign account, including $1.5 million from major donors, and he has already brought in hundreds of thousands more dollars since. A herd of super PACs supporting Cruz brought in another $31 million, Bloomberg reported Wednesday — an eye-popping sum that has stunned more than a few competing Republicans.

Bush, a former Florida governor whose powerful family has deep roots in Texas, has factored prominently into Cruz’s pitch to big donors. Cruz and his allies have stressed some urgency in light of Bush’s early success raising money, and have pressed upon potential supporters that Cruz is the strongest conservative alternative to Bush.

“What I tell people is, look, if you’re going to wait, then effectively you’re going to say you’re fine with Jeb being the nominee, because Jeb is going to have plenty of money,” said Hal Lambert, who left his fundraising role with the Texas Republican Party to join Cruz’s campaign as finance co-chair. “For Sen. Cruz to mount a strong campaign and be the nominee, then we’re going to have to raise the money.”

And Cruz has so far delivered impressively, bucking the conventional wisdom that his conservative campaign would be propelled solely by grassroots fuel. In addition to the money Cruz has raised, his campaign has secured commitments from roughly 200 bundlers, who will each bring in at minimum $50,000 (the “federalist” tier) or more than $500,000 (the “founders”).


Ted Cruz’s Presidential Campaign Launch Destroyed Rand Paul’s On Facebook

Despite all the digital sophistication—and a few missteps—propping up his presidential campaign, Rand Paul is already lagging on Facebook behind one of his biggest rivals: Ted Cruz.

Cruz, who formally launched his White House bid last month, attracted nearly three times as much buzz—measured in likes, posts, comments, and shares—on Facebook during the 24-hour window surrounding his announcement as Paul, who announced on Tuesday.


Hillary Clinton’s Main Obstacle: Her Own Inevitability

And while Clinton’s experience makes her a promising leader to her acolytes, many voters view her as a cozy Washington insider, a Westchester elite in bed with New York banks and D.C. lobbyists. And though she is known among close friends and family to be to be warm and loving, Clinton has had trouble connecting with voters on the campaign trail. In 2008, after a tough loss in the Iowa primary, Clinton showed voters a more personal side. Her challenge is to make voters see her as a confidante and a listener from the get-go.


Hillary Economist

What does Hillary stand for?

ANY day now, Hillary Clinton is expected to declare that she is running for president. For most Americans this will be as surprising as the news that Cinco de Mayo will once again be on May 5th. Mrs Clinton has had her eye on the top job for a long time. She nearly won it in 2008 and is in many ways a stronger candidate now. She and her husband have built a vast campaign machine. The moment Mrs Clinton turns the key, it will begin openly to suck up contributions, spit out sound bites and roll over her rivals. Some think her unstoppable: Paddy Power, an Irish bookmaker, gives her a 91% chance of capturing the White House in 2016.

Steady on. The last time she seemed inevitable, she turned out not to be. The month before the Iowa caucuses in 2008, she was 20 points ahead of other Democrats in national polls, yet she still lost to a young senator from Illinois. She is an unsparkling campaigner, albeit disciplined and diligent. This time, no plausible candidate has yet emerged to compete with her for the Democratic nomination, but there is still time. Primary voters want a choice, not a coronation (see article). And it is hard to say how she would fare against the eventual Republican nominee, not least since nobody has any idea who that will be. The field promises to be varied, ranging from the hyperventilating Ted Cruz to the staid Jeb Bush. Rand Paul, a critic of foreign wars and Barack Obama’s surveillance state, joined the fray on April 7th (see article). Still, Mrs Clinton starts as the favourite, so it is worth asking: what does she stand for?


The Alinsky Way of Governing

But targeting institutions and their leaders is pure Alinsky; so are the scare tactics. Mr. Grijalva’s staff sent letters asking for information about the professors, with a March 16 due date—asking, for instance, if they had accepted funding from oil companies—using official congressional letterhead, and followed up with calls from Mr. Grijalva’s congressional office. This is a page from Alinsky’s book, in both senses of the word: “Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have,” reads one tip in his 1971 “Rules for Radicals.”

Yet adopting Alinsky’s tactics may not in this case fit with Alinsky’s philosophy. This is Alinsky with a twist. Despite myriad philosophical inconsistencies, “Rules for Radicals” is meant to empower the weaker against the stronger. Alinsky writes: “The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”

In a similar vein, the political philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain supported Alinsky’s work in getting disengaged communities—typically in lower socio-economic strata—to assume the difficult responsibilities of citizenship. As a way of challenging “big government,” even conservatives such as former House Majority Leader Dick Armey have recommended Alinsky’s tactics (minus his professed hatred of capitalism, etc.).

But what happens when Machiavelli’s Prince reads and employs “Rules for Radicals”? In 2009 President Obama’s friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett was asked on CNN about media bias, particularly at Fox News, and she responded: “What the administration has said very clearly is that we’re going to speak truth to power.” I remember thinking: “Wait a minute, you’re the White House. You are the power.”


Russia Plans Spring Offensive in Ukraine, Warns Ex-NATO Chief Wesley Clark

Russian-backed separatists are planning a fresh offensive in eastern Ukraine that could come within a matter of months, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, warned March 30. “What is happening now is preparations for a renewed offensive from the east,” and this could take place following Orthodox Easter, on April 12, and “most probably” before VE Day on May 8, Clark said, citing multiple local sources he spoke with on a recent fact-finding mission to Ukraine. “That’s what all the talking is about right now, preparing the cover for the next attack,” he said. Given that an attack is “imminent,” Clark said the Obama administration should take two specific actions to bolster Ukrainian security forces:

It should share intelligence with Ukraine so the Ukrainians can have “firm warning of a renewed Russian offensive”;

And it could prepare an aid package, including lethal assistance that has already been authorized by Congress; deploy it at a staging base; have strategic lift available; and warn Russian President Vladimir Putin that “when we first get the indications that you are coming again we will send assistance, including lethal assistance, to Ukraine.”

These two actions would fall within the parameters of the administration’s current policy not to provide lethal assistance to Ukraine.


Finland Sparta

Finland – Sparta of the North

Unlike the aforementioned nations, Russia doesn’t have any immediate imperial designs against Finland, Bulgaria and Romania. Although Russian nationalists see the first two as part of Russia’s restored empire, Russia won’t employ military means to subjugate them. Russian imperialism, in the guise of Soviet communism, has already tried to conquer Finland once before, but the Finns butchered enough Russians for Stalin to reconsider. A lesson every nation must learn: Russia will break whatever treaty you signed with them (i.e. the Soviet–Finnish Non-Aggression Pact) and attack you on false pretexts (i.e. Shelling of Mainila), create a puppet government to administer the occupied territories (i.e. Finnish Democratic Republic), and will only relent if enough Russian soldiers are killed. The Finns killed over 1,200 Russians a day and thus got Russia to drop its plan to occupy and annex all of Finland. Theirs is a magnificent example to study, emulate and revere by all other nations under Russian threat.

Since even the current megalomaniac Russian leadership remembers the Winter War, Finland is safe. No Russian general wants his troops to enter Finnish forests and get massacred by the nearly 300,000 troops and 600,000 reservists Finland can muster. Finland, if attacked, can field twice (!) as many ground troops as Italy, Germany, France, Spain and the UK combined (!). If Finland had followed the foolish path of most other EU nations and reduced its military forces by 75% over the last decade, Putin might be tempted to invade Finland, but as Finland stuck to its concept of total defense, it is safe. Once again “Si vis pacem, para bellum” [If you want peace, prepare for war–ed.] has been proven as the most sound national defense principle.


Presidents create political inequality by allocating Federal dollars to electorally useful constituencies across the country

Three incentives encourage presidents to be particularistic.  First, presidents do indeed have a national constituency.  However, voters do not directly choose the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Rather, the Electoral College does.  Over the past thirty years, an increasingly small number of states have wielded disproportionate influence in selecting the next president.  Presidents have strong incentives to target federal resources to court voters in swing states.

But presidents are more than just reelection-seekers.  They are also partisan leaders.  As such, presidents pursue policies that systematically channel federal dollars disproportionately to parts of the country that form the backbone of their partisan base.

Finally, to succeed legislatively, presidents must build coalitions.  In contemporary politics, presidents have been forced to rely heavily, often almost exclusively, on co-partisans in Congress to advance their legislative agendas.  To court favor on Capitol Hill and to maintain their party’s strength in Congress, presidents also have incentives to reward constituencies that elect co-partisans to the legislature with bigger shares of federal largesse.

Analyzing the geographic allocation of all federal grant dollars from 1984 through 2008, we find evidence of all three forms of presidential particularism.  The result is massive presidentially induced inequalities in the allocation of federal dollars across the country.

Controlling for a host of factors that shape the amount of grant spending different parts of the country receive, we find that presidents systematically channel a disproportionate share of federal dollars to swing states.  Our analysis shows that communities in swing states consistently receive more federal grant dollars than comparable communities in uncompetitive states.  Moreover, presidents are particularly eager to court voters in swing states as the next election approaches.  In presidential election years, constituencies in swing states receive even larger infusions of federal grant dollars.


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