Archive for February, 2010
February 18th, 2010 at 10:43 am
It’s the Merchandise, Stupid!
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CBS News’ Political Hotsheet reports that “Miss Me Yet?” merchandise, based on the Minnesota billboard featuring a smiling, waving George W. Bush is hot.  That is not surprising, given the publicity that the billboard has gotten, largely because it was the subject of mystery and not the typical multiple press releases.

What did surprise us was the note at the end of the piece (from U.S. News and World Report reporting earlier this month) that the Obama Store in Washington’s Union Station has closed.

Polls are just polls, but merchandise sales?  That’s humiliating.  (Wasn’t Larry Summers in charge of merchandise?)

February 17th, 2010 at 2:00 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: Obama’s Excessive Spending is Bush’s Fault
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

February 16th, 2010 at 7:43 pm
Is an Avalanche Coming in the Senate?
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With news of the retirement of moderate Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana dominating electoral soothsaying this week, some other important numbers are getting lost in the shuffle.

At the same time as Bayh’s decision to pursue greener pastures leaves his seat ripe for Republican picking, two West Coast Democrats are finding themselves vulnerable in a way they never imagined.

California’s liberal firebrand Barbara Boxer — a woman too far to the left for even the Golden State — is holding on to very narrow leads in potential contests against moderates Tom Campell and Carly Fiorina or conservative Chuck Devore (what may be most notable is how little difference the Republican nominee makes to the numbers).

Meanwhile, up the coast in Washington, one of the few Democratic incumbents assumed safe this year has received an ominous warning sign. Senator Patty Murray boasts double-digit leads over every Republican that has actually declared against her, but Dino Rossi — the former state senator who has been the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee in the Evergreen State’s last two cycles — actually outpolls Murray by two points. Rossi is said to still be planning on sitting out the race, but in this atmosphere that’s a miscalculation for both his career and his party’s future. Any Republican who passes on a chance for a competitive seat in this year’s environment needs to seek a career in something other than professional politics.

With two of the West Coast’s liberal safe-havens suddenly looking vulnerable and Bayh’s seat seemingly vanishing into thin air, the question has to be asked: how many more surprises can Democrats take before the 2010 Senate elections begin to look entirely hopeless?

February 16th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
A Movement of Principles

During a presidency characterized by vapid rhetoric, it is inspiring to consider the ongoing discussion among movement conservatives to define themselves with statements of substance.  Glenn Beck outlined the 9 principles and 12 values animating the Tea Party set.  Newt Gingrich is calling for a new Contract with America.  Members of the Religious Right are nearing a million signatures for the Manhattan Declaration.  RNC Chairman Michael Steele is promoting a 10 point Republican checklist.  And on the eve of this week’s CPAC Convention, several prominent conservative leaders will sign and publish the Mount Vernon Statement.

All of this is good.  Each document shows that the Right is driven by ideas about the human person, society, and government.  All of these statements attempt to bring together an understanding of our nation’s founding principles with an application of them to the current era.  In its own way, each affirms the conservative belief that first principles need not be held hostage to recurring problems masquerading as new crises.  That there is disagreement, even bitterness, is good because from it comes a more definite understanding of a coherent political philosophy.  So, the next time you read about the “conservative crack-up,” read one of these documents and delight in the knowledge only one of the two major movements in this country has the courage – and the ability – to argue about first principles.

February 16th, 2010 at 2:05 pm
Now, California Politicians Can’t Even Agree to Reject Nominations

The Golden State may now be the world’s largest banana republic.  After being approved by the state Senate, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pick to be Lieutenant Governor didn’t receive enough votes in the state Assembly to secure approval or rejection.  The result spawned name calling, threats of constitutional litigation, and the possibility that Schwarzenegger would seat his nominee personally and dare legislators to oppose him.  He has since backed down and will re-nominate his candidate, thus restarting the process.

At this point, why not pistols at dawn?  Anyone killed or unable to work thereafter wouldn’t be replaced, thus thinning the cancerous governmental herd feasting on tax dollars.

February 16th, 2010 at 1:35 pm
Evan Bayh Learns the Value of the Private Sector

As the reasons for Senator Evan Bayh’s (D-IN) decision not to run for re-election this year trickle out, it sounds like the life-long politician has learned that the private sector – not government – is the engine that drives human prosperity. When asked today about his future plans, Bayh responded:

“But if I could create one job in the private sector by helping to grow a business, that would be one more than Congress has created in the last six months. If I could help educate our children at an institution for higher learning, that would be a noble thing. If I could help a charity, cure a disease or do something else worthwhile for society — that’s what has motivated my life and that’s what I think Congress needs to focus on, things that will help the American people meet the challenges they face in real ways in their daily lives. That’s what I want to do with my life. And if you’ll invite me back on your show in 11 months, I’ll be able to tell you!”

Although it is too bad Bayh won’t be in Congress spreading that message, the Republic is strengthened if even just one Democrat can learn the truth about where true fulfillment lies.

February 16th, 2010 at 12:59 pm
Wait… Aren’t Tea Partiers the Violent Ones?
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According to a Boston Herald report, a relative of murderous University of Alabama-Huntsville professor Amy Bishop described her as a far-left political extremist:

“A family source said Bishop, a mother of four children – the youngest a third-grade boy – was a far-left political extremist who was ‘obsessed’ with President Obama to the point of being off-putting.”

Admittedly, we cannot muster the gastrointestinal fortitude to continuously monitor the silly MSNBC triumvirate of Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, but weren’t the Tea Partiers the potentially violent political extremists, according to them?  The trio repeatedly manages to locate the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack Tea Party protester carrying a distasteful “Obama = Hitler” placard, and they constantly suggest a sinister proclivity toward violence amongst those who actually treasure the Tenth Amendment and concepts of federalism.

We certainly won’t hold our collective breath awaiting Matthews’s, Olbermann’s or Maddow’s hard-hitting expose on the danger of violence among “far-left political extremists,” even though that perfectly describes Lee Harvey Oswald himself.  But it might be a nice change of pace from their usual unicorn-chasing and suggestions that the Tea Party movement is merely cover for a return to slavery.

February 16th, 2010 at 10:05 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Iran Hourglass
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

February 15th, 2010 at 8:19 pm
The Folly of Government Reforming Healthcare Pricing

Every once in a while, there is an article so good, it’s almost an injustice to splice any part of it for fear a reader won’t take the hyperlink and read the whole thing. Thankfully, Freedom Line Blog readers aren’t those types, but just to whet the appetite, here is a sample from an op-ed dissecting why government can never “reform” healthcare pricing.

Healthcare prices are fake, inflexible, and inflated because they are set not by the repeated interactions of buyers and sellers but by opaque acts of collusion between government bureaucrats and special interests. Even if this system were run by a benevolent genius who happened to set prices exactly “right” – whatever that means – these prices would be obsolete the moment they were published.

I don’t know the author, Bill Frezza, but I wish I did. A hat tip to you, Sir.

February 15th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
Obama and Biden Predicted Iraq Surge Failure, Now Claim Credit for It?
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In January 2007, President Bush announced a surge of approximately 20,000 troops to win the war in Iraq.  In this convenient and brief video clip, then-Senators Joe Biden and Barack Obama insisted that the surge was a terrible idea destined to failure.  Biden even slurred General David Petraeus as the only person who believed the surge would work, and Obama actually predicted that the surge would make things worse, not better.

Fast forward to last week.  In one of the most distasteful and brazen illustrations of chutzpah in modern politics, Vice President Biden now claims in this video clip that success in Iraq, following the surge that both he and Obama opposed so unequivocally, may stand as “one of the great achievements of the Obama Administration.”

On second thought, however, perhaps Biden is correct.  In light of the utter catastrophes inflicted to date by the Obama Administration, perhaps not managing to bungle the successful Iraq surge that the Bush Administration ordered is indeed its greatest success.  Either way, former Vice President Cheney is also correct that Obama and Biden owe Bush a belated “thank you” on Iraq.

February 15th, 2010 at 12:44 pm
Utah Making 12th Grade Optional?

At a time when governments at every level are confronted with the need to deliver services with less money, one Utah legislator is proposing a novel idea: encourage high school kids to graduate early.  The logic is simple enough: if students complete their graduation requirements a year early, they should have the option to graduate.  While the solution makes sense, it should require a broader rethinking of how education is structured.

Currently, most school districts receive funding based on the number of students in average daily attendance.  Thus, the way to get the most money is to have the most students on campus.  Unfortunately, that can create a perverse incentive to make it difficult for students who would otherwise graduate early, or leave campus during the day to take college courses.  While it makes sense to fund schools in proportion to the numbers in their student body, it is ridiculous to penalize schools when students want to accelerate their education.  Instead, schools should be rewarded for helping students graduate early.  Not only would the graduation of the 11th grade “senior” free up a seat, it would help to reorient the educational system back to its primary goal: educating the individual student.

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February 15th, 2010 at 11:38 am
Bye, Bye Evan Bayh

And the Democratic retirements just keep coming! Even though a Daily Kos poll showed Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) with a 20 point lead over former Republican Senator Dan Coats, Bayh announced today that he will not seek re-election this year. With Coats now the odds-on frontrunner, one has to wonder if Congressman Mike Pence is regretting his decision to stay in the House of Representatives instead of challenging Bayh.

Getting back to Bayh, since he has the third most cash of any senator up for re-election this year and has never lost a political contest, I wonder if this recent hit from the Left persuaded him that there isn’t much of a constituency for a self-styled moderate Democrat. It’s one thing to be hit from the Right for not being conservative enough, but when the activists and the money people in your own party start hammering you for not carrying enough water for an increasingly unpopular liberal agenda, well, Bayh can probably find better things to do. Unlike Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh isn’t willing to save the Democratic Party from itself by running in spite of its base.

February 15th, 2010 at 10:47 am
Explain That Fuzzy Math Again: How Many Carjackers Equal One Terrorist?
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John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, publicly stepped in the proverbial “it” once again this weekend. 

Fresh off a round of blockbuster appearances in which he explained the remarkable intelligence benefits of the 50-Minute Undie Bomber interrogation, he made a speech at NYU.  In answer to a question, he sought to dismiss concerns about the 20 percent recidivism rate for released terrorists, saying, “You know, the American penal system, the recidivism rate is up to something about 50 percent or so, as far as return to crime.  Twenty percent isn’t that bad.”

We understand from The New York Times that Attorney General Eric Holder is getting some White House help with “messaging,” because of Holder’s inability to differentiate terrorists from common  domestic criminals.  Regarding Mr. Brennan, it’s just too bad this is an administration that doesn’t support “no child left behind.”

February 14th, 2010 at 5:38 pm
How Many Laudatory One-Term Presidents Have There Been?

According to an article in the New York Times, only James K. Polk is a consensus top-tier (great or near great) one-term president.  All the others (e.g. Lincoln, Washington, FDR) won multiple terms.  Polk ranks so high because he actually accomplished his stated goals before voluntarily retiring: reduce tariffs; create an independent treasury; and establish American control of California and most of the Oregon Territory.  Though each was very difficult to achieve, Polk did.

Now consider President Obama’s pledge to be a one-term president, even if it means pursuing the “right” policies for America, despite a majority of Americans opposing him.  Such a statement misreads Polk’s lesson.

All this suggests a false dichotomy underlying Mr. Obama’s expressed resolve to render his presidential decisions without regard to his re-election chances — as if the choice were between political popularity and governmental success. A better approach for any chief executive is to assume that, in presidential politics, as in retailing, the customer is always right, and that the electorate’s verdict will be consonant with history’s consensus. Thus, the aim of every historically minded president, Mr. Obama included, should be to pursue a second term by bundling up voter sentiment into a collection of policies and programs that succeed in the crucial areas most on the minds of the American people.

Mr. Obama can certainly anticipate a one-term fate if he gets crosswise with his citizens. And if that happens, it isn’t likely that on future President’s Days he will ever be remembered as a great chief executive.

February 14th, 2010 at 5:19 pm
It’s the (Grand) Narrative, Stupid

John Ellis (no relation) has a terrific op-ed today at Real Clear Politics. Taking a step (or rather, several steps) back from tactical issues like how Democrats can better communicate their policies, or which Republican newcomer is best suited to run for president, Ellis points his rhetorical finger at the real issue driving Tea Party-type angst. He labels it a two step issue: the Reckoning and the Restructuring. The first is confronting the mountain of national debt and spending; the second is deciding how to get it under control. On the latter point, Ellis has some thought provoking comments.

The Reckoning requires restructuring. Restructuring is not avoidable, it is inevitable. The sooner we do it, the less painful it will be for all concerned. Specifically, we must decide how to make our pension system (Social Security) and our current national health care system (Medicare and Medicaid) sustainable. We must restructure our debt. We must get 15% more performance out of our military on 15% less budget. We must get 25% more performance out of all other government services on 25% less expenditure.

In addition, we need to think about what taxes to raise, whether we sell land, whether we acquire nation-states or territories (Africa states? Siberian land?), whether we merge with Canada to form a more robust (and energy independent) mega-nation. These are the big issues of US restructuring. And they are all on the table.

Except they are not. The Obama Administration keeps talking at us like its 1998 and we can have a “green” jobs program and national health insurance and “cap and trade” legislation and $250 million criminal proceedings for homicidal Islamic psychopaths in downtown Manhattan. We don’t have $250 million for the KSM trial in Manhattan. Everybody knows that except, apparently, the Obama Administration.

Putting aside merging with Canada or national annexation, the absence of this kind of serious discussion is unworthy of a president who sees himself as an historic figure willing to be a one-term executive if it means accomplishing something great (and hard). Taking on the Reckoning and the Restructuring would certainly qualify.

February 13th, 2010 at 10:31 pm
Biden Rebutting Cheney Almost as Humorous as Cheney v. Edwards

According to Politico, the White House thinks dispatching Vice President Joe Biden to rebut Dick Cheney on tomorrow’s Sunday talk shows will make the Obama Administration look good.  Joe’s funny, but he’s no Dick Cheney.  Too bad the former VP won’t have the opportunity to debate Biden head-on, like he did in 2004 with John Edwards.  If you’d like a reminder, here’s the link.

February 13th, 2010 at 10:17 pm
Republican Candidates Should Beg to be Co-opted by Tea Partiers

In today’s Wall Street Journal, blogger Glenn Reynolds makes an interesting observation about attendees at the recent Tea Party Convention in Nashville.

Press attention focused on Sarah Palin’s speech, which was well-received by the crowd. But the attendees I met weren’t looking to her for direction. They were hoping she would move in theirs. Right now, the tea party isn’t looking for leaders so much as leaders are looking to align themselves with the tea party.

Indeed.  Republican leaders would do well this election cycle to figure out how to get GOP candidates co-opted into the Tea Party movement, not the other way round.  Unlike many voters, tea partiers aren’t looking for a candidate to sell them on an idea; they want a candidate who is going to implement the Tea Party creed.

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February 13th, 2010 at 9:22 pm
The Wrong Kind of Government Transparency

Remember Erroll Southers?  He was President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the chief of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), the agency in charge of security at all the nation’s airports.  If approved, he would have been the point man for installing full body scan machines for every passenger to walk through.  Yet, he withdrew his nomination last month after it surfaced that twenty years ago as an FBI agent he illegally accessed information about his ex-wife’s boyfriend.  By all accounts he was a model security professional before and after the incident, but introduce a personal motive, and even the best people may play a dangerous game with our privacy.

Once again, Britain provides a case study.  Recently, an Indian film star discovered the failures of a government-run failsafe system.  Immediately after participating in a mandatory full body scan at London’s Heathrow airport, Shahrukh Khan saw two female security workers printing out a picture with detailed outlines of his manhood on display.  The event gave the lie to assurances by the British government that no scanned information would be saved or printed.  Though irritated, he made light of the matter and autographed the paper.  The rest of us should take note.

It is darkly ironic that at a time when most Americans are disgusted with the lack of transparency from their government, their government is lusting after more transparency from its people.

February 13th, 2010 at 2:12 pm
Imagining Obama as Jean-Jacques Rousseau
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Over at the Weekly Standard, the Pacific Research Institute‘s Jeffrey Anderson has a very sharp piece on how President Obama’s self-designated role as philosopher king is (a) antithetical to the American system and (b) impeding his legislative agenda. A sample:

In a moment of candor, [Obama] essentially said [he embraced the philosopher-king role] to [CBS News’ Katie] Couric:

“Look, I would have loved nothing better than to simply come up with some very elegant, you know, academically approved approach to health care [that] didn’t have any kinds of legislative fingerprints on it, and just go ahead and have that passed. But that’s not how it works in our democracy. Unfortunately what we end up having to do is to do a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people.”

With the possible exception of Woodrow Wilson, can you imagine any of our prior presidents having said that?

Our democratic process, our separation of powers, and our federalist design frustrate Obama. But, far from being unfortunate, the negotiations and multiple levels of approval that they require, from a myriad of different citizens, is largely what secures our liberty—protecting it from those who would otherwise impose their own comprehensive goals from their lofty theoretical perches. The Founders were surely not Obama’s intellectual inferiors, but they were practical men. The Constitutional Convention was nothing if not high-level give-and-take, tinkering and refining. One imagines Obama showing up at Independence Hall with his own plan in hand (probably adapted from Rousseau’s in The Social Contract, with Obama cast in the role of the Legislator) and being surprised when the other delegates resisted his eloquence and, correspondingly, his proposal.

A great piece. Read the whole thing here.

February 13th, 2010 at 12:47 pm
Who Isn’t Qualified to be a Federal Judge?

The arbitrary love a vacuum, so when they find one, the temptation to fill it with inanity usually proves too great. Consider the case of Gloria Navarro. By all accounts, she is an accomplished Nevada attorney whose work as a public defender and prosecutor has won her a presidential nomination to be a federal district judge. While I suspect her judicial philosophy is to the left of Clarence Thomas, I nonetheless acknowledge that she is “qualified” to serve on the bench, if by that term it means owning a bar license and practicing as an attorney. Then again, those are my requirements, not the Constitution’s. While the nation’s fundamental law details the age and citizenship requirements for the president and members of Congress, it has no specific qualifications for being a federal judge.

But don’t tell that to the politicians who impose them nonetheless. Since adult conversations about judicial philosophy are off the table, most presidents and senators resort to indirect indicia of competency like schools attended, grades earned, and clients represented. Some demand judicial experience. Others, like Senator Harry Reid with Navarro, prefer “real world” (i.e. non-judicial) experience when it suits their nominee.

In fact, there’s more than a tinge of bias against attorneys who didn’t hit their professional stride until well after beginning the practice of law. To hear politicians and pundits, unless a lawyer’s resume includes Ivy League credentials and a federal clerkship followed by a career serving the upper echelons of government and mammon, a president shouldn’t even bother with a nomination. Yet, these types of opportunities depend on a level of access that is unattainable for most people in their teens and twenties. It is almost as if the comparatively unfettered ability to rise in the political and economic realms must be compensated for when it comes to peopling the bench. Though many in the academy lionize him, few spend much time discussing the fact that Robert Jackson rose to prominence and then the Supreme Court without having trodden the golden path of law review, clerkship, and partner.

All of which makes the American Bar Association’s judicial rating system seem like an exercise in subjective grading. When a nominee’s rating depends on the make-up of a particular committee, the resulting scores have all the marks of a high school prom vote. Like an American Idol panel, an ABA process does not (and perhaps, cannot) employ a consistent standard for judging someone “qualified” when there are no concrete qualifications to use.

Instead of weighting a “qualified” rating towards accomplishments clustered at the beginning of a career, the ABA should reward nominees that have made significant contributions to the practice or study of law. After all, a good judge is someone who appreciates both the realities of legal practice, and the history, philosophy, and structure of the American Constitutional order. Lawyers serving as judges should have a breadth of experience and a depth of knowledge. If that sounds too much like the exceptional being the enemy of the competent, it is. But it emphasizes the accomplishments earned over a career, not standardized test scores. Be not afraid; there are more than enough attorneys to “qualify” under such a standard. It just may take a little extra work to find them.

Hopefully, the Obama Administration will come to the same realization its predecessor did and chuck the pretense that a professional cartel like the ABA can be objective. Like any advisor, when the ABA stopped providing useful information it was rightly fired. With one of President Obama’s own nominees getting less respect than her achievements deserve, now would be a good time to make the break permanent. Maybe then competent attorneys like Navarro can move past debates about qualifications to more serious matters: like whether her judicial philosophy squares with the Constitution itself.