Archive for the ‘Romney’ Category.

The Siren Song of the Moderate Republican Presidential Candidate

The recent government shutdown once again raised the idea of a Republican Civil War between moderates and conservatives within the party. This idea is carried forward in a profile of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie written by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough for Time Magazine. He argues that Christie’s cake-walk re-election this week came about because he “dominated the middle of a Democratic electorate.”

 

To win again—to make America great and growing again—requires a return to the spirit and substance of Eisenhower and Reagan. We Republicans will not win national elections if we do not broaden our appeal in the way these giants did. Nor will we govern well if we refuse to make principled compromises when necessary, the kinds of compromises that led Ike and Reagan to historical greatness.

 

Daniel Greenfield at Frontpage Mag disagrees with this approach, writing, “The Republican Party has allowed its enemies to define it. Its moderation has convinced voters that it’s crazy and dangerous because without raising its voice and fighting back, the only things they know about it comes from its enemies.”

Who is right? Should the Republican Party abandon its conservative Tea Party base and embrace moderation, by supporting a liberal Republican like Christie, or should the Party ignore the calls for moderation and follow a more ideological path by selecting a Rand Paul or Ted Cruz to bear the party’s standard in 2016?

Let me begin by stating I like Chris Christie. I disagree with him on many issues, in particularly his stance on guns, but if he’s the nominee I will support him, and not because I’m a good little Republican. I like his willingness, eagerness really, to bait his opponents in a fight. His aggression is something we have lacked in candidates with a few flashes from Michelle Bachmann, and the exception of Newt Gingrich, who catapulted himself to front-runner status after taking on CNN’s Anderson Cooper in a debate Cooper was moderating. The GOP base feels that the Republican Party establishment has been playing by Marquess of Queensberry rules in a street fight. Somewhere along the line, I’d guess the death of Lee Atwater, the Republican Party lost the stomach to do anything and everything to win an election. This spirit is not lacking in their Democratic opponents. The Democrats will do anything to attain and keep power. It’s like a football game between the New England Patriots and your local high school’s JV team. You can show all the heart on the field you want, but you’re still going to lose. Christie has that heart but he also knows the sport and plays it like a professional. He doesn’t just respond, he eviscerates. He uses both his size and his New Jersey accent as weapons, and he would shred just about any Democratic candidate in the debates.

But I am not convinced picking Christie as the nominee will win the GOP the White House.

The problem as I see it is that while he might may have dominated a Democratic electorate in New Jersey in his 2013 re-election, he likely won’t do the same nationally in 2016. The Democrats knew he had a lock on the governorship, which is why they didn’t put up much of a fight or waste money supporting his challenger. This will not be the case in 2016. Then he will face a Democratic electorate unified in its quest to control the White House for another 8 years. Liberal interest groups will open their checkbooks, as will billionaires like George Soros and Michael Bloomberg. And unless the Republican party and its allies mount an effective campaign to neutralize the air cover provided by the mainstream media for the Democratic candidate as Bill Whittle at Bamboo Spears warns, the Democratic Party will control the public perception of the Republican nominee. Whittle writes, “If you are fighting a conventional war and you do not own the skies, you are going to lose.” Picking Christie would be fighting a conventional war.

Today Christie is perceived by the media as a tough talking leader of a tough state, able to twist arms and get things done. Come election day 2016, he will be a “racist, 1% supporting, woman hating, gay bashing, right wing extremist. Did we mention he was fat? Gross…” Can’t happen? It already has. The Democrats and their allies in the media took a popular liberal Republican governor of a Blue State with the same “bipartisan” getting things done record and turned him into a caricature that Romney himself didn’t recognize. In fact, it’s the same playbook used against John McCain in 2008 except that McCain’s bipartisan record and legislative successes occurred in the Senate and not the state house. There’s already proof it’s happening as John Nolte at Breitbart.com noticed with the “Elephant in the Room” Time cover, concerns about his health, and weight jokes. “The media love Christie when he is hugging Barack Obama and trashing conservatives. But the media also know that he is about to threaten Hillary Clinton’s ascension to the White House. By laying the groundwork with the weight issue now, the media hope to turn Christie into a national fat joke as a way to undermine his candidacy.”

And before I go much further let’s stop the pretense. No more “Democratic candidate;” everyone knows that the Democratic candidate will be Hillary Clinton. The time has finally come for the Democratic Party to wield that old battle axe in battle that it has been itching to do since 2000.

The Democratic Party Lesson

The success of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 began on January 19, 2004 in West Des Moines Iowa with a concession speech by Howard Dean. Dean, recovering from a severe bout of the flu, was shouting over the cheers of his audience using a uni-directional microphone that filtered out the sound of the audience. In the speech Dean sounded possessed, his voice cracking when he screamed “Yeah!” at the end became known as the “Dean Scream.” Howard Dean, who had run an insurgent, grass-roots campaign against the Democratic establishment candidates of John Kerry and John Edwards, was left vulnerable.

Dean had raised millions through small internet donations, a first in a presidential election in the United States. He energized the liberal base of the party who had always opposed the Iraq War that both Kerry and Edwards had voted for in 2002. His supporters and volunteers were young and enthusiastic, striking some in the establishment as almost “cult-like”. Deans meteoric rise in the fall of 2003 scared the Democratic establishment. They saw Dean as unelectable in the general election, an extremist that President Bush would turn into a George McGovern surrogate in a re-run of the 1972 election. Dean had to be stopped, so the establishment  began leaking unflattering stories to the press, blunting Dean’s candidacy around the holiday season. But the Deaniacs remained devoted, distrusting the Democratic Party establishment just as much as the Tea Partiers dislike the GOP establishment today.

When Dean screamed, the Democratic establishment pounced, and within days Howard Dean had flamed out. With Howard Dean gone, so was the enthusiasm for the Democratic candidate, culminating in the awkward “Reporting for duty”  quip by John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.  The establishment ran an establishment-designed and executed campaign, and the base never got behind it. Kerry lost.

But Howard Dean wasn’t done. Within weeks of the inauguration of President George W. Bush to a second term, Dean focused on becoming the chairman of the DNC. Again the Democratic establishment opposed him in his effort; rumors are both Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi fought his candidacy. But Dean had the votes this time, and he won. Suddenly the candidate of the liberal grassroots, the outsiders arrayed against the establishment, became the establishment.

Dean took the party’s apparatus and immediately put it to work. He focused on the grassroots, ironically using a strategy first employed by the Republican Party regrouping after Vietnam and the Nixon resignation in the 1970s known as the “50 State Strategy.” This channeled the energy of the grassroots to the benefit of all political levels within each state. A feature of this strategy was to replace moderates and conservatives within the party who tended towards compromise or bi-partisan solutions with dogmatic liberals dedicated to pushing the liberal agenda beloved by the grassroots. The result was a party purged of its pro-life, pro-2nd amendment, free-trade and middle-class supporting, environmentally-agnostic members. Losing conservative and members of the party shifted its balance ideologically from center-left to the hard left, leaving the Democratic Party today more liberal than at any time in its history.

It worked. Not only did Dean’s strategy net the party the White House in 2008, it also gained them both houses of Congress. The Democratic Party did not gain control of two of the three branches of American government by running the most moderate or conservative candidates: it won by running the most liberal politicians dedicated to the principles of the Party. For the presidency the extremists who had lost in 2004 had backed Barack Obama by almost 2-1 versus the more moderate John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. Obama’s election, engineered by Howard Dean’s amazing rebound after his early 2004 collapse, stands as one of the greatest examples of a grassroots movement outwitting the establishment  and achieving victory in recent history.

Republicans would be stupid not to heed it, but we all know who the stupid party is in American politics.

The Game Changer

Charles Krauthammer believes soul searching by the Republican Party isn’t necessary. Its principles are sound; there is no need to kick the Tea Party caucus out of the party and reinvent itself.

 

The country doesn’t need two liberal parties. Yes, Republicans need to weed out candidates who talk like morons about rape. But this doesn’t mean the country needs two pro-choice parties either. In fact, more women are pro-life than are pro-choice. The problem here for Republicans is not policy but delicacy — speaking about culturally sensitive and philosophically complex issues with reflection and prudence.

Additionally, warn the doomsayers, Republicans must change not just ethnically but ideologically. Back to the center. Moderation above all!

More nonsense. Tuesday’s exit polls showed that by an eight-point margin (51-43), Americans believe that government does too much. And Republicans are the party of smaller government. Moreover, onrushing economic exigencies — crushing debt, unsustainable entitlements — will make the argument for smaller government increasingly unassailable.


 

Krauthammer recommends a single policy change. Embrace amnesty for illegal immigrants but do so after securing the border. Announce complete amnesty; anyone here will become citizen no fine print, no qualifiers. The only string is that the border must be secured first and it has to be secured properly. The Israelis have done it on a smaller scale using walls, electronic sensors and drones. We could do the same, and once that is done if you are here that’s it: You’re a citizen.

Living with Hispanics as I do in rural North Carolina I’m amazed the Democratic Party thinks they are natural Democrats. Hispanics are culturally conservative, more conservative in some respects than red-necks and the NASCAR crowd the liberal elite likes to make fun of. They are religious and family-centric. They are industrious and have an innate distrust of the government after having experienced the ineffectual, corrupt and oppressive governments in Central America. In short they are natural Republicans. But they have voted Democratic because of the Republican stance on illegal immigration and because the GOP has bought the Democrat’s narrative that they own that minority.

So change the political dynamic using the Secure-Amnesty approach. It would be a classic bit of political jujitsu; all the effort the Democratic Party has put into securing Hispanic votes suddenly is used against them. It would change the dynamic between the parties for generations. And that’s what a living party does: it evolves and grows while remaining true to its core beliefs. Immigration policy isn’t a core Republican belief; fix it and move on.

Let the Democrats Drink Kool-aid, the GOP Should Stick to Tea

Those who advise the GOP to select a moderate candidate with a record of “reaching across the aisle” is either a Democratic consultant or a self-hating Republican like Mr. Scarborough who probably needs to change his party affiliation (I think he’s been breathing the air at MSNBC too long.) Anyone the GOP nominates will be portrayed as racist, xenophobic, homophobic right wing zealot guilty of waging a war on women. It could put up the Pillsbury Dough Boy and the party would be accused by the Democrats and their lapdog press of being in the pocket of agribusiness and guilty of poisoning the food supply with gluten.

The only solution is to simply ignore the other side. Sure it’s great if the GOP can bring back some of the Reagan Democrats who haven’t died or converted into Republicans already, but the deciding factors should all be internal.

Does the nominee excite the base? The GOP primaries of 2011-12 seem like happening so long ago, but it’s worth remembering who got Republicans excited. First there was Michelle Bachmann, then Rick Perry, Herman Cain and finally, almost in desperation, there was Newt Gingrich. None of these four had the ability to maintain interest, and as a result the love affairs with each were intense but brief. When all these suitors were dropped, there was only Mitt Romney, and honestly the base just wasn’t into him. Choosing Romney was a chore for the base, and no matter how much the establishment promised he had what it took to beat Obama, it never warmed to him. As a result Romney got 2 million few votes than McCain in a contest decided by 3 million votes.

Did the nominee get wealthy through means other than finance? I doubt paupers will be serious primary candidates, but there is wealth achieved by what most Americans consider to be hard work, and there’s wealth that’s perceived to be ill-gotten. Getting wealthy in the financial industry makes one immediately suspect. Romney never escaped Bain Capital, and if the GOP picks Christie everyone will soon discover that he made his wealth at Goldman Sachs, known as the “Vampire Squid” in a 2009 article by Rolling Stones writer Matt Taibbi,  by stealing old people’s pensions and drinking the carbonated tears of orphans. Christie has so many skeletons in his closet that Romney slammed the door in terror, and he selected Paul Ryan as his running mate instead. Rest assured that somewhere one of Hillary Clinton’s staff is devouring and the book behind the accusations, and the more likely Christie will become the GOP standard-bearer the more the public will find them on public display.

Does the nominee really want the job and have “fire in the belly” to prove it? McCain really wanted to be president in 2000, but by the time it was his turn in 2008 his candidacy lacked the fire of his days in the “Straight-talk Express,” and obviously so did his belly. Had Bush had less luck and McCain more I’m convinced he would have won in 2000 against Gore by a wide margin. Romney seemed to have it in the primaries when he was fighting for the nomination, but seemed exhausted of both ideas, spirit and worse, fight by the Labor Day 2012 rolled around the partisan battle started in earnest. Running for president takes a level of courage, stamina, egotism and even insanity that normal people do not have. Their past should reflect a constant striving for the ultimate job, their decisions made at all levels of their career with the knowledge that someday they would have to justify them. They don’t need to be perfect, just justifiable, and the more honest the answers the better.

All candidates in the mix currently meet these criteria with the exception of Christie (missing 1, 2) and Rubio (missing 1). Three years out it’s impossible to say who will win the primaries in 2016 and become the GOP nominee, but here’s my take. Ted Cruz: Too inexperienced. Rand Paul:  The sane Ron Paul, but can’t we nominate a governor please after suffering a crappy senator for 8 years? Rick Perry: An early favorite as long as his wooden demeanor comes across as presidential timber. It didn’t in 2012. Sarah Palin: Worth nominating just to see liberal heads explode. Cat-fight for the Presidency would make a WWF cage-match look like tea at Downton Abbey.  Someone else? As the year ends and 2014 begins, it will increasingly look unlikely for another player to appear. I’d give the odds at 60-40 in favor today, declining to 50-50 in Feb 2014 (two years ahead of New Hampshire Primary)  and 40-60 against in Summer 2014.

 

The Day After Election 2012 – Lessons Learned

I’ve been in software development for over a dozen years now. Some of the projects I’ve been on have succeeded and others have failed. One of the key components of the software development lifecycle (SDLC) and one that often gets forgotten by project teams is the “lessons learned” review at the end of a project. If often is ignored because software design has become more like movie making: just as with a movie a project brings together people to work on a single goal then disperse after that goal is complete. The lessons learned on that project are usually put together as an after-thought by project managers and analysts who will never work together again, handing the results over to an organization that will file them away on a network drive never to be read. But for a sponsoring organization such documents are key to future success. All software designs face similar constraints and road blocks, and the way those constraints are handled and the road blocks overcome can help insure the next project’s success.

Over the past months I have had a very bad feeling about this election. I touched upon this feeling some in “Ending Radio Silence” but I have felt bad about Romney’s chances to win since mid-Summer. In April my instincts or gut told me that Romney would win, but by July that feeling had dissipated. I think it was ultimately due to Romney’s personality. He showed fire in the belly during the primaries when he was up against Newt Gingrich and the rest of the field, but that fire disappeared. It’s an intangible thing this fire, and I would have a very difficult time explaining it to the man if we shared a coffee together, but Romney lost it after he clinched the nomination. Instead of looking like Reagan in 1980 he began to remind me of Kerry in 2004. It wasn’t just the ability to inspire the opposition, Romney as out of touch wealthy guy and Kerry as Vietcong sympathizer that gave creative impetus to their respective oppositions, it was his failure to connect with voters in a way that Reagan could but Kerry and Romney could not. This fire I suppose is a type of charisma, and both Kerry and Romney lacked it while Reagan and Clinton had it.

So from a lesson’s learned perspective the GOP thought they had a candidate with charisma and fire but they were fooled. The lesson learned here is… well I’m not sure there is a lesson here other than what you see in the primaries is no guarantee of what you get in the fight for the general election. The red flag should have been the fact that he didn’t fire up the party base the way he should have, made clear by the effort to find “anyone but Romney” in fall 2011 through the early primaries.

This leads us to our first lesson learned: Choose the candidate that fires up the base of the party regardless of their perceived chances to win the general election. A candidate that inspires the base has shown he or she possesses charisma. The party faithful will be the first to sense that charisma but it will eventually spread to independents and even Democrats. One thing the GOP establishment has forgotten is that Reagan was liked by many Democrats not for his policies but simply because he was a charismatic leader. This charisma makes the caricatures the Democrats will paint of the GOP candidate seem hollow and less effective during the campaign.

Instead the GOP establishment has focused on electability which, in a center-right country like the US means the most “liberal” conservative around. It’s interesting to consider that both the Democrats and Republicans have failed most of the time they have tried this strategy (for the left this means choosing the most conservative Democrat). In 2004 the Democrat establishment sunk the Howard Dean candidacy in favor of the “more electable” John Kerry, throwing away the excitement and energy the Deaniacs brought to the party. After Kerry lost, the Deaniacs did the smart thing: they took over the Democratic establishment and encouraged Barack Obama’s candidacy against the “more electable” Hillary Clinton in 2008.

This leads to the next lesson learned directly related to the first: The party establishment must get behind the candidate that excites the base the most and ignore “tenure.” For some reason this is more of a problem for the GOP than the Democrats. The Republican establishment is big on backing the candidate “whose turn it is” rather than the one more popular with the base. This points out the divide between the party establishment and the party base. Since 2008 the base has been more conservative, more radical than the establishment, and the GOP has done its best to neuter that excitement to avoid being seen as extremist.

Here’s another lesson learned: The Democrats and the mainstream media that backs them will paint whomever the GOP selects as their candidate as extreme so ignore electability. Mitt Romney is a liberal Republican who was turned into a blood-thirsty paleo-conservative industrialist. The GOP could nominate Angelina Jolie as their 2016 standard-bearer and the Democrats would turn her into a racist, crony capitalist who adopts internationally to avoid paying adoption fees in the US for her unpaid personal assistants. As long as the candidate has charisma that inspires and displays a will to win, electability follows; it doesn’t work the other way around.

Fire Reince Preibus and everyone above the title of webmaster at the RNC. This election should have marked the end of the progressive era in America, instead the progressive movement has new life. Not only did the GOP fail to take the Senate it also lost seats in the House. Whatever decisions the RNC made, including calling me three or four times a day everyday for the past month and even a 6pm call on Election Night, failed. If these guys don’t fall on their swords by lunchtime Tea Partiers should storm their offices on K Street and put them to it – metaphorically of course (well…)

Surrender on illegal immigration and amnesty. Obama said it himself that it was stupid of the Republicans to throw away a few million votes. Less than that swung the election. It’s time for the GOP to give up the fight on illegal immigration even if that means accepting amnesty. Why? Because the Hispanic vote is a better fit in the GOP than it is in the Democratic party. Hispanics are culturally very conservative. They tend to be very religious and for the most part are hardworking. Who do they compete against for jobs? African-Americans and low-skilled union jobs, both which back the Democratic Party. Hispanics do not take away jobs from highly skilled white men that tend to vote Republican, so why not add them to the party? They aren’t taking away my job, and I could use a few to lay a concrete footer for a wall outside the window right now. Cut the deal as soon as possible with the Democrats, and open the border to Mexico if necessary. The only groups that will suffer are Democrats, and by the time 2016 rolls around the GOP will have a new group in its base.

As the Wife noted, too many people see the Republicans as a bunch of anti-gay Bible thumping nut jobs beholden to Wall Street and the wealthy. This indicates the success the Democrats have had defining their opposition. As Jon Markman at the Wall Street Journal notes, the stock market has done much better under Obama than it did under Bush while the gap between rich and poor has widened under this president compared to his much maligned Republican predecessor. Yet people still believe the GOP serves Wall Street interests, ignoring the reality that Wall Street loves Democratic policies of shoveling tax payer cash into the markets, and that Wall Street has enjoyed a windfall from fees charged union pensions for risky investments.

The lesson here is that the Republican Party needs an image makeover, returning to the party’s humble populist roots referred to in Nixon’s Checker’s speech when he referred to his wife Pat owning a “respectable Republican cloth coat.” The average Republican earns less than the average Democrat, yet the GOP suffers from an image of being the party of the wealthy. These facts must be publicized. Come up with a plan that stresses the core values of what it means to be a Republican. What are those values? As a Republican myself, I’m not sure what they are – and that’s the GOP’s fault. But I would guess it can be boiled down to a government that supports you when you need it but gets out of your way when you don’t. Something like that. In the past we’ve used “small government” but what does that mean to the average American? Get specific. Publicize that the GOP is not trying to poison our drinking water and air, it’s removing unnecessary regulations and helping industry work with the government to provide jobs while protecting the environment. The GOP isn’t against health insurance, it’s for making health care cheaper by encouraging competition between providers, insurers and the government. The party needs a PR campaign so that my Wife can stop writing me texts that say “I’m embarrassed to be a Republican.”

Like many in the party I’m an ex-Democrat. I’ve voted for more Democrats in my life than Republicans and performances such as this election by the GOP makes me regret my current affiliation. The Republican Party apparatus just seems clueless, naive and downright stupid when it comes to winning elections. Democrats know how to win, and they will do everything it takes to do so. The GOP needs to absorb the Progressive Playbook, Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. This book has driven the progressive movement since Alinsky published it in 1971. Alinsky’s Rules are immoral. Their purpose is to not to put up a fair fight. Their purpose is to win. Here are the rules:

RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.
RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.
RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.
RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.
RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.
RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news.
RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.
RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.
RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.
RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.
RULE 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

There is nothing in these rules that Machiavelli himself, or perhaps the late GOP strategist Lee Atwater would avoid doing. Read these rules. See how they have been used against Republican candidates and causes. Absorb them. These rules and the book itself are completely non-partisan: they can be used just as effectively against Progressives as against Conservatives.

Democrats Should Watch What They Wish For

Watching liberals freak out over a possible Romney presidency would be entertaining if it weren’t sad to those of us hoping to see Washington work again for the good of the country. If one were to believe the hysteria, minutes after taking the oath of office he is going to take away everyone’s health insurance and force them to buy private plans from insurance companies his friends own, send all American jobs to China, force women to emulate the Mormon wives portrayed in Big Love, invade Syria, Iraq, Iran and any other Middle Eastern country the angel Moroni tells him, and unleash torrents of crude oil into the wilderness all the while sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office tapping his fingers together and maniacally laughing. I’m sure forcing people to drive with their dogs on top of their cars comes his second day in office.

People on the right don’t get this at all. While liberals relished the spectacle of Republican Primaries where each candidate defined him or herself as more conservative than Mitt Romney by portraying him as a liberal RINO (Republican In Name Only), they evidently failed to notice that of all the GOP candidates Mitt Romney is the most liberal on many issues important to conservatives. He is after all the grandfather of Obamacare, the issue that nearly sank him in the primaries, and worse, wasn’t the governor of Texas, the way George W. Bush was, or California (which once had a flourishing conservatism) like Reagan. No he was governor of the bluest of blue states, Massachusetts, a state that many on the right refer to as Taxachusetts due to its tax code that more resembles socialist France than small-government loving New Hampshire. Face it, a Republican in Massachusetts is like a Pomeranian. A Pom is as much a dog as a Rottweiler. It may bark like a Rottweiler but if you are going to stroll through a city park at night you’ll note the salient difference between the two dogs and want the Rotty, not the Pom, at your side.

The rise of the Democratic party is directly the result of the election of 2004. Had Kerry defeated Bush that year it is unlikely that the Democrats would have taken over Congress in 2006 which laid the groundwork for the Obama election in 2008. By the time Congress came into session in January 2007 Bush was already a lame duck, despised by the electorate with no political capital to spend in Washington. What were the great achievements of his second term? See for yourself. He pacified Iraq of course, but that’s already unraveling. Domestically the only thing that can be loosely classified as an achievement is the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005, a bill sponsored by then Senator Joe Biden which I vehemently opposed. As a rule second terms always disappoint. Clinton’s was marred by scandal and the failed attempt at impeachment, so he did what presidents often due to burnish their entry in History by chasing after foreign policy illusions. Reagan had Iran Contra, and Nixon, well let’s just note that ended badly for him.

There is no reason for the pattern to break. In a second term Obama will have a Republican House and possibly a Republican Senate. The GOP rank and file will follow the Democrat’s example and purge itself of all the establishment figures that shoved Romney down the throats of the Tea Party faithful, forcing the GOP further to the Right in the same way that Kerry’s failure forced the Democrats leftward. In the long-term this will be good for Conservatives because it will be nearly impossible for the Democrats to win again in 2016, and so the GOP will choose a candidate that will make Michelle Bachmann look as liberal as Nancy Pelosi. But he or she won’t be defeated in the primary by a centrist establishment candidate, because the establishment will have been purged of RINOs in the same way that the Democrat Party purged itself of conservatives like Zell Miller, Dick Gephardt and Jim Webb.

If Obama wins it is unlikely either the House of Senate will move back into Democratic hands. So in 2016 when America voices its desire for change it will elect a much more conservative Republican than Mitt Romney, and will hand him or her a unified Congress. If this doesn’t scare liberals today, it should, because had someone told me in 2004 that my vote for “W” would have resulted in the Democrats controlling both halls of Congress and electing the most liberal president since Carter, I would have voted for Kerry and encouraged my libertarian and conservative brethren to do the same.

Mitt Romney is many things, but he is not a conservative. He may claim Reagan’s mantle, and the GOP will pretend it’s his, but don’t fool yourself: Romney is a liberal Republican and honestly at this point that’s okay for me. I’m tired of extremists of any stripe, and would welcome a moderate in the White House. The question is whether the Democratic Party wants to remain relevant in the long-term by losing the election this November and likely retaking Congress in two years, or desires to re-elect Obama now and give up control of Congress until 2018 and risk electing a Republican extremist in 2016. Elections have consequences, Obama once said. They sure do, and Democrats should remember that before they cast their votes.

An Obama Victory May Be Good for the War on Terror

In the final weeks before the election I’ve been thinking long and hard about what the outcome could mean for the future of my country. Regardless of who wins, he will face a China that is bullying its neighbors into American arms, a Middle East that has become more radicalized not less, an Iranian nuke or a war started by Israel or the United States but blamed on the Great Satan regardless of which flag is painted on the bunker busters. The November winner will face a crumbling Europe, a soaring American debt that has become so big no one knows how to tame it, and a catatonic domestic economy. American education spends more than any nation in the world on its students yet they learn less. The weight of the pensions of Baby Boomers threatens to crush public spending, turning cities and states into mob enforcers who shake down the working, relatively poor young and pass the cash to the retiring relatively wealthy elderly.

I will leave the economic issues aside for the moment to focus on foreign policy. In my view with the exception of China, Obama has made all of these problems worse. But looking at these issues over the long-term, say through the remainder of this decade, would an Obama loss be really a victory for those of us who have opposed him every step of his way to the office he now holds?

China stands as perhaps the only issue I agree with the administration on. I’ve studied China and East Asia for decades, and recognize that handling a rising superpower is never easy, especially one with a 4,500 year history and cursed by a long, often twisted, memory. The Obama administration has attempted to encourage the rise of a peaceful, prosperous China that would take its place as an equal partner in the Pacific, but at the same time has worked to support our allies such as Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. It is an art more than a science, and while mistakes have been made by the Obama administration, they are to be expected in such a long-term important endeavor. The Chinese cannot understand why the United States would welcome a peaceful, prosperous and powerful China that is integrated with the rest of the world, and instead sees every American move through paranoid eyes and zero-sum calculations. We can’t do much to change this view of American policy in the Pacific, except by doing what this administration has done, setting policies that reassure our allies while encouraging the Chinese to play nice with others in the Pacific’s playground.

Unfortunately the tact, intelligence and real-politic shown by the Obama administration towards China has not been manifested anywhere else in the world. In the same way the reality of Iraq showed the folly of the neocon dream, the murder of our diplomat in Libya and the virulent anti-American nature of the “Arab Spring” has put paid to the dreams of Obama and his liberal eggheads. Obama believed that he alone could solve the Middle East problem with a grand speech in Cairo and apologies and bows to Arab leaders. He thought he could strong-arm Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, and that the Muslim world would see the wisdom of the Nobel committee’s awarding him his Peace Prize. He believed that once free from Iraq, he would be able to exit Afghanistan gracefully without fear of the Taliban taking it over and turning back the clock to 2000.

Nearly four years later America is even more hated than it was under the Bush administration. Iraq is becoming a satellite of Iran, allowing its Shiite neighbor unrestricted flights over its territory to resupply the Assad regime. Pakistan has degenerated into a pit of vipers that protected a man personally responsible for more American deaths than anyone since Ho Chi Minh and allowed Chinese to test a piece of top secret American gear left behind after its forces aired out his skull. Vast swathes of North Africa have been lost to al-Qaeda affiliated radicals including half of its most populous nation, Nigeria. Women are being secreted behind closed doors in Cairo and Tunis, as Egyptians copts are raped and terrorized out of their homes, putting an end to communities that date almost to the time of Christ. Liberals laughed when a man threw shoes at George W. Bush; they are oddly silent as they see Obama burned in effigy by crowds throughout the Middle East. Americans once were able to visit the Pyramids and Valley of the Kings; today members of the Egyptian government call for the destruction of the Pyramids and the State Dept warns Americans to avoid Egypt.

Hope and change.

The murder of the Libyan ambassador proves the Obama administration has failed to learn the lessons of 9-11. The average rapper has better security in Los Angeles than the Libyan ambassador. Threats against American interests there were ignored just as Bin Laden’s declaration of war against the US was in 1998. Many on the right including myself have given a pass to the Clinton administration for failing to imagine the attacks of 9-11 and stop them; today the Obama administration has no such excuses.

And speaking of silence, where is Code Pink, Cindy Sheehan and the other anti-war Left? Where are the anti-war drums that sounded for every dead Muslim civilian or American soldier arriving at Dover Air Force base in Delaware in the middle of the night? Where is the anger, the spiteful commentary of lost wars, the Vietnam comparisons that flowed thick through every mainstream news outlet during the Bush administration? As Walter Russell Mead notes, “If George W. Bush were president now, and had ordered the surge and was responsible for the strategic decisions taken and not taken in Afghanistan over the last four years, the mainstream press would be rubbing our noses in his miserable failures and inexcusable blunders 24/7. The New York Times and the Washington Post would be treating us to pictures of every fallen soldier. The PBS Newshour would feature nightly post-mortems on “America’s failed strategies in the Afghan War” and every arm-chair strategist in America would be filling the op-ed pages with the brilliant 20/20 hindsight ideas that our pathetic, clueless, failed president was too dumb and too cocky to have had.”

After his election I feared that Obama would weaken the position of the United States in the world. I envisioned Obama to be a pacifist who would gut our military, anger our friends and embolden our enemies. I was wrong about Obama’s pacifism; he may be a pacifist at heart but he has shown a willingness to kill America’s enemies that would make Dick Cheney offer him a high-five. Unfortunately he has succeeded in doing what I feared. Our alliances with our closest friends Australia, Canada and Great Britain are ignored. Our long-standing friendship with Israel rebuffed. A deep relationship with Egypt lost. Meanwhile Iran, North Korea and the socialist states in South America continue on as before, confident that the US lacks the resources to challenge them. As Machiavelli wrote “if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved.” Obama should play less golf and read more because he has failed to do either.

The only solace I can take is that the Obama administration has shown a willingness to kill our enemies. Bin Laden is crab food, and drone strikes and special operations continue worldwide. The administration avoids calling it by its name, but the Global War on Terrorism continues using the same methods and tactics that the Bush administration developed and supported. What Obama has not done is use his speech giving abilities to provide an explanation to the American people why the war continues, and show that he and his administration understand the existential threat posed by radical Islam. It is a shame because it is possible that a liberal like Obama could do more to protect and advance freedom in the world for the same reason that a cold warrior like President Nixon could open up to China: his base trusts him.

And this is what concerns me about a Romney victory. If Romney wins I would expect that the Democrats would stoke the flames of their anti-war brothers at a critical time in our history. War is Not the Answer bumperstickers would sprout on foreign cars. Colleges would be wracked by anti-war protests. We need a coherent strategy explained to the American people while continuing the fight against terrorists around the world. There is the potential for Obama to do that, and for his allies to keep their anti-war instincts at bay. Likewise I suppose it’s possible that Obama, having achieved his goal of reelection would simply allow his own pacifist instincts to rule the day, putting American in even more danger. But I would hope that four years of at least occasional Angry Birds free Intelligence Briefings would have convinced Obama the threat to our nation is real.

So it is possible that the best outcome is an Obama victory for those of us who believe in the primacy of the war against radical Islam. The continued media silence at dead terrorists may be worth the price of four more years of Obama. This of course will not change my vote in November, but it has given me something to think about.

Obamacare Survival No Guarantee of Obama’s This November

What, you honestly didn’t think it would be this easy did you? Just because a partisan measure passed without 0 Republicans in either the House or Senate, then rammed through the latter using a procedural maneuver, one that has become increasingly unpopular as the details are discovered since its passing, you didn’t seriously believe a divided court’s ruling would determine the President’s fate in November?

Obama has passed a huge, unpopular tax on the American people. Taxes are powerful incentives for change. Don’t forget that it was a tax that started us on the path of independence nearly 240 years ago. If the GOP isn’t scripting ads promising to repeal this unfair tax (unfair because it penalizes young people who don’t consume much in the way of health care in favor of older people who do), then it doesn’t deserve to win back the White House.

Nothing worth having comes easy. Let the president have his victory lap and his bump in the polls, but begin the attacks. Ann Althouse already has.

Of Goats and Politics

Over the weekend I attended an open house at an organic farm specializing in making goat cheese. Since I live on a large inactive farm I’m interested in learning about all aspects of small scale farming, and having grown up in the St. Louis suburbs there’s much to study. As I have learned more about growing things, I’ve come to appreciate organic methods that minimize or eliminate chemicals and work with the forces present in nature in order to grow food. Don’t get me wrong: Mother Nature will starve you to death and dine on your bones if you let her, but there are strategies such as avoiding monoculture plantings and pesticides that whack beneficial insects as well as pests that are worth pursuing for a hobby farmer such as myself. Additionally I’m becoming more aware of the sourcing of my food, recognizing that we have completely lost the ability to eat what’s in season when at the local supermarket we can buy strawberries in November and whole ear corn in January. I live among farmers, and I have seen the gradual creep of large agribusiness and the depopulation of rural America. Neither are good omens for our nation’s future, and though they may be inevitable, I’ll be damned if I contribute to the process. So I’m gradually buying more locally, and the trip to the farm open house was a way to get some ideas on my new lifestyle.

When we arrived the place was hopping, with young men directing people to park on a newly-mowed hay field. We parked, and as I walked past the cars I automatically scanned the bumper stickers, a bit of a habit of mine. The first one I saw as expected was an Obama ‘08 sticker, but the next one I saw surprised me: a Gadsden flag of the Tea Party along with a sticker that read “God Bless Our Military, Especially Our Snipers.” North Carolina is much bluer than I expected when I moved down here, and I’ve learned that while I might live in a predominantly conservative part of the state it is full to the brim with people of all political philosophies and walks of life.

All were represented at the organic farm. There were gay couples and old hippies, as well as clean-cut military men and their families, their kids petting goats and chasing free range chickens. A man dressed in a checked shirt beneath blue overalls stood alongside a young woman with more piercings than a rural stop sign, listening to one of the founders of the farm talk about its history and how it has grown over the years. Hispanics mingled with blacks who in turn stood in line with monied white suburbanites and their kids to take a turn at the pottery wheel and throw their own pot. Smiles were everywhere, and the place seemed as alive as the show hive of bees that stood on saw horses in the middle of a vegetable patch.

I was an odd child growing up. Some of my first memories are not of clowns or birthdays but of political events. I watched Nixon’s visit to Beijing broadcast on network TV in 1972. Two years later I rushed home from school and flipped on the Watergate hearings instead of game shows or cartoons. I grew up living and loving politics, and had I been born with a more gregarious personality I would have pursued a career in it. Instead I was socially inept, perhaps even autistic, so politics could never be more than a spectator sport for me, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.

But I’ve lost that joy. It has been years since I felt something other than doom and dread about politics, and the organic farm reminded me why.

We are divided, almost atomized these days. It has been years since we felt unity, the last time being the unity of grief by the 9-11 attacks. Since then our leaders have failed us. President Bush famously promised to be a “uniter not a divider”, but then went and did what he wanted to do in Iraq and in the biggest failure of his administration, presided over an explosion of government and spending. The Department of Homeland Security wasn’t a Clinton creation, it was a Bush one after all. While I agreed with his policies in Iraq at the time, Bush failed to support his actions at home against his critics. He just did what he wanted because he knew it was right, but didn’t even try to convince people otherwise.

Obama hasn’t even attempted to unite us. He took office reminding Republicans that he won and has governed accordingly, ramming through his signature health care legislation without a single Republican vote. A year later Americans clipped his power by taking away the House from the Democrats and ending their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, but Obama didn’t miss a beat. Instead of moving to the center and working with the opposition to get legislation passed, he went to the extreme, and decided to wait things out to the next election, blaming the GOP and his Republican predecessor for the fruits of his own failure to lead.

Leadership in a democracy requires skills in the art of compromise. It’s hard to imagine but Ronald Reagan whom even Obama himself has claimed for his own never had a friendly majority in the House during his 8 years yet managed to pass budgets and legislation with bipartisan support with no less a political mastermind like Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. We have yet to have a single budget from the president even during the 2 years his own party held both the House and Senate.

In fairness to Obama he never was much of a leader. His career reflects the Peter Principle more than the exercising of leadership skills to make it to the top, always having a mentor in higher position who can push him further up the political ladder. Unfortunately Obama now finds himself at the top with no mentor other than his usual billionaire friends like George Judenrat Soros and Warren Buffet. While these men may support him with their financial acumen and deep pockets, there is no one above Obama that can protect him anymore so he must rely on his skills. The problem is that the process that led to his ascension to the highest office in the land avoided cultivating those skills.

George W. Bush had a similar rise through the ranks, although based on his name rather than mentors. Samuel P. Bush, George W’s great-grandfather, built a successful career as an industrialist and dabbled in politics during World War I. His son Prescott continued the path of mixing success in business with politics that lead to George Bush’s ascendance to the presidency in 1988. While George W. Bush showed the ability of a leader to make difficult decisions such as to attack Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, an upbringing where his name alone opened doors and convinced people made it unlikely that he would develop other leadership skills such as the ability to convince others and charm one’s opponents.

The last president that had such leadership skills? Bill Clinton. Clinton is a self-made man and rose through the political ranks solely on his wit and charm. During his 8 years in office Clinton was able to pass budgets and bipartisan legislation with die-hard partisans such as Newt Gingrich. Clinton understood how to work with Congress, and his domestic policy record proves it (on the other hand his foreign policy record was in retrospect a disaster, consciously ignoring the threat posed by al Qaeda even though numerous terrorist attacks occurred on his watch.)

We have gone 11 years with weak leadership and our nation has suffered. You can’t compromise with someone you call a racist. You can’t cut deals with a party you demonize as misogynistic and homophobic. Leadership doesn’t pit one group of people against another; it fuses them together in a shared purpose.

A true leader does more than call his opponents names and make grand promises in eloquently delivered speeches from teleprompters. He inspires but also delivers on his promises. He doesn’t hold grudges but also makes it clear that he will not be played the fool. He understands the responsibility that comes with his position and serves all the people, not just those who voted for him. Most importantly he appreciates and respects the ideals that bind us together as a people and a nation, recognizing that while we might disagree vehemently on issues big and small, we are all bound by the love of freedom and hope for a better future for our children and our country.

While it is clear that leader is not Obama, neither is it clear that it is Romney. But I do wish that both men could have taken a moment from their politicking to talk to the farmer selling hand raised beef, watched the Montagnard women weaving brightly colored fabrics, and tasted the red pepper goat cheese. Perhaps they would have understood that if we could put aside our differences at a goat farm founded by a woman driving around with two goats in the front seat of her Toyota looking for a farm in North Carolina, we are a people ready to be led, and who deserve a good leader.