Weekly Musing 6-21-15
Happy Father’s Day
Remembering my dad and his mentorship that included giving me a lifetime experience in the Boy Scouts!
Days until the 2015 election: 134. Days until the 2016 election: 505.
2016: A Return to Leadership The very soft and unconvincing beginnings of the Clinton and Bush campaigns indicate that both families’ standard-bearers are running for the office because it is there and has been occupied by close relatives, and not because they are really irresistibly motivated to win it, much less that the public is clamoring for them to set up in the Oval Office. The Benghazi debacle and address to the world’s Muslims, and the bungling of the privately issued and retained e-mails, have gone a long way to sinking Hillary as an ultimate winner, even though she is a one-trick pony (“I’m a woman and I’m named Clinton”) in a one-horse Democratic field. And Jeb Bush’s failure to deal promptly and crisply with the question he must have known was coming for the past ten years, about the suitability of his brother’s invasion and government of Iraq, seems to be helping confirm the growing national impression that the Clintons and the Bushes, whatever their past services, are not evergreen dynasties, fit to lead America back from the slough of inert confusion to which those families have helped lead it. Jeb Bush doesn’t directly carry the can for the Iraqi quagmire and the economic shambles that George W. Bush brought on, and Hillary Clinton has put some distance between the Obama malaise and herself, but the natural antidote for the cumulative problems these two presidents have wrought are not George W.’s brother and Obama’s first secretary of state. (They might end up being the nominees, and one of them might end up being a good president, but enthusiasm for them at this moment is not unlimited.) These new faces might be capable of looking like plausible and interesting holders of national office.
For the first time since the 1966 recovery of Republicans as problems arose over the Great Society and Vietnam, when Ronald Reagan, Charles Percy, Nelson Rockefeller, Spiro Agnew, and others rose, while Democratic stalwarts Edmund G. Brown, Paul Douglas, and Mennen Williams of Michigan and many others bit the dust, there are signs of an interesting crop of promising young politicians elected governor and senator in important states. Governors Rauner (Illinois), Jindal (Louisiana), Snyder (Michigan), Kasich (Ohio), Haley (South Carolina), Walker (Wisconsin), and Senators Rubio (Florida), Paul (Kentucky), Ayotte (New Hampshire), Graham (South Carolina), and Cruz (Texas), as well as relative newcomers like Carly Fiorina, show a sense of renovation and optimism that could start the country off on a new cycle of desperately needed reform and political reconstruction next year. Most of the prominent Republicans seem to be running close to or ahead of Hillary Clinton in current polling. These new faces might be capable of avoiding terrible pratfalls and looking like plausible and interesting holders of national office, seeing off into the instantly receding past the tired faces and clichéd ornaments of recent drift and mediocrity (the Bidens, McCains, Romneys, and Kerrys), and energizing the electorate. This might reinstill a sense of optimism and faith in an America that has turned the rascals out again and again (1992, 1994, 2000, 2006, 2008, 2010) without getting markedly better government or addressing endlessly festering problems. …Americans are neither accustomed to being so little respected in the world as their country is now, nor resigned to its continuing in this way. It is not an enervated society like most of Europe, is not afflicted by a death wish of national guilt, nor shattered or maladjusted from past enormities of misgovernment like Germany and Russia. It retains the pride, patriotism, and ambition of a great power, and rightfully wishes leaders who will reassert these national traits that Americans for generations had come to regard as their birthright. The ambition is justified and commendable, and need not be unrealistic. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/419878/2016-new-improved-crop-gop-candidates-conrad-black
The Odds on Republican Contenders
In February, I offered odds on the Republican nomination contest. The field of candidates has evolved since then, and the number of genuinely possible winners has narrowed.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who officially launched his candidacy this week, is no longer the front-runner, although he’s still in the top tier. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Florida Senator Marco Rubio have leapfrogged Bush in what remains a wide-open contest.
The field of serious candidates, in my view, now stands at eight. You can think of them competing in brackets similar to the regional brackets used for college basketball playoffs.
Ted Cruz Is The Frontrunner For The Republican Nomination
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — the true outsider, the tribune of the grassroots, the ruthless lawyer — is the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
This is not trolling. This is serious. Conservatives vote in Republican primaries. And Cruz is really good at talking to conservatives.
Even his enemies will concede Cruz is smart. And his resume is strong — Princeton and Harvard Law School; success at the highest level of American law; serious jobs in federal and state government; and an underdog Senate victory in 2012. The strikes against Cruz as a Republican candidate usually run something like this: He doesn’t poll well; the shutdown freaked people out; he can be grim; he’s not well-regarded among Senate Republicans. Cruz, who quickly replaced Jim DeMint as the most hated man on Capitol Hill, has been underestimated for what is basically a credential: Even Republicans in Washington hate him.
Let’s work through the rest of this like a geometric proof.
Hillary the populist – The Chameleon
One thing to remember about populism: It’s popular. It tends to go over well with the populace.
So while Hillary Clinton’s first big campaign speech Saturday could be accurately described as liberal populism, she wasn’t exactly veering to the left or simply pandering to her base. The liberal policies that she championed on Roosevelt Island were the liberal policies with broad appeal to the center as well, the liberal policies that Americans tend to like more than they like “liberalism.” That’s certainly not true of all liberal policies, but Clinton mostly ignored the less popular ones.
At times, she sounded left-leaning general themes that have come to poll well across the political spectrum: shared prosperity, economic fairness, investments in people, aid for distressed communities, equality for gays and lesbians, the unfairness of overpaid CEOs and Wall Street malfeasance and billionaires buying elections. She name-checked the Children’s Defense Fund , renewable power, Franklin D. Roosevelt and other leftish things that evoke positive reactions in focus groups.
But Clinton also pledged to champion a slew of specific left-leaning policies, including universal pre-kindergarten, paid family leave, an infrastructure bank, universal voting registration, a higher minimum wage, equal pay for women, tax penalties for companies that “stash profits overseas,” more government spending—well, “public investments”—on science and research, and increased aid for the mentally ill. None of those were exceptionally bold stands to take. Most Americans like that stuff. They like the goodies that big government provides, even if they don’t like big government, and they like the idea of taxing and regulating what FDR would have called “malefactors of great wealth,” even if they don’t like the idea of taxes and regulations.
Group’s proposals would make debates more candidate, millennial-friendly A blue-ribbon bipartisan group proposed a raft of changes Wednesday to the general election debates that would make them friendlier to candidates while also modernizing them to increase viewership and keep them relevant in an age of declining TV viewership.
The group proposes eliminating audiences for the debates except the town hall-style debate but letting the public decide more of the questions. They would also let candidates engage more with each other on stage and make it clear to the journalists moderating that they’re moderators and should not act as journalists during the debate.
“I think what we were trying to do is get [the debates] in the hands of the voters and of as many people as possible,” said former Mitt Romney senior adviser Beth Myers, a co-chair of the group, along with former Obama White House communications director Anita Dunn. “We want to make this about an interchange between the candidates, nothing else.”
The 16 members included many veterans of both Democratic and Republican campaigns, such as Joel Benenson, Stuart Stevens, Ben Ginsberg, Ron Klain, Charles Black, and Robert Barnett, who often does debate prep for Democratic candidates.
In the Real World, Not Hollywood, the Left Is Close-Minded, and the Right Allows Dissent
I’ve split my professional life between two American cultures: half spent in the bluest-of-blue cities and the other half in the reddest-of-red rural South. I’ve split my jobs between universities and law firms that are almost uniformly Left and conservative nonprofits that are steadfastly Right. I attended a conservative, Christian college and then one of the nation’s most liberal law schools. My family has bounced between Cambridge, Massachusetts, Manhattan, rural Tennessee, small-town Kentucky, and Center City, Philadelphia (where we lived right at the edge of the so-called gayborhood). And after all those travels, I’ve come to at least two important conclusions: The sushi is better in Manhattan, and the freedom is better in Tennessee.
My conservative undergraduate institution — Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. — was far more open to dissent, including from angry atheist classmates (yes, I had a few) than was Harvard Law School. No one was jeered, shouted down, or threatened at Lipscomb. No one called future employers of atheist or liberal students to try to get job offers canceled. Professors didn’t scream at dissenting students, and activists didn’t plaster photo-shopped, pornographic pictures of liberals all over campus walls. At Harvard, all those things happened — to conservative students…
…We have yet to see whether these cultural approaches can coexist indefinitely. While your average Tennessean doesn’t much care what someone in New York City thinks or does, the urban Left isn’t willing to embrace legal or cultural federalism and allow states to go their own way. Instead, it demands that all social trends conform to its agenda, demands that public schools teach social leftism exclusively, and, most recently, refuses to allow even Indiana to chart its own course on religious freedom and tolerance.
Americans tend — over the long run — to reject censorship and intolerance, but past performance is no guarantee of future results. For those of us who live in Free America, our mission is clear: Resist legal and ideological aggression, and model the respect for free speech and individual liberty that we demand from our ideological foes. May the best culture win.
Watch Out, Dems: Sheldon Adelson And The Koch Brothers Are Closer Than Ever
In late April, some 700 conservative luminaries, including presidential contenders, donors, fundraisers and former President George W. Bush, gathered at the Venetian casino and resort in Las Vegas for the Republican Jewish Coalition’s spring meeting, where Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul and GOP megadonor, was holding court.
Among the assembled allies, well-wishers and supplicants who put in appearances was Tim Phillips, the head of Americans for Prosperity, the political centerpiece of the sprawling fundraising and advocacy network spearheaded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. It was the second consecutive year, according to an RJC donor, that Phillips dropped by for at least part of the conference, which doubles as the site of the so-called Adelson primary — the increasingly high-stakes battle between GOP presidential candidates vying to win the billionaire’s favor by expressing their full-throated support for Israel. Phillips’ foray into RJC turf was emblematic of a growing and successful effort by the Koch network to tap into Adelson’s $28 billion net worth and forge new links with the casino owner and the RJC, of which Adelson has long been the lead bankroller.
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