In evaluating a candidate for office, there are — ultimately — only two questions to ask:
What has he done that is relevant to the office he seeks? and
Can he get into office and, once there, deliver on his previous record?
All else is details.
Based on the answers to these questions, I believe Gov. Jon Huntsman is the best of the remaining candidates to challenge President Obama next fall. None of the others offer his combination of conservative accomplishment in office, electability against the president, and likelihood for success once there.
As to the first question, Governor Huntsman has a record of achievement in Utah that should give conservatives of all varieties much to applaud. Tax hawks can note that he reduced sales, business, and state income taxes, saving Utah’s taxpayers a net of $409M. Pro-lifers may note that Huntsman signed three anti-abortion bills while in office: one banning second-trimester abortions, another making third-trimester abortions count as felonies, and a third requiring abortion providers to explain that unborn children experience pain. Libertarians and gun-owners can celebrate his liberalization of Utah’s draconian alcohol laws and Utah H.B. 357, recognizing the right of citizens to carry concealed weapons on their property and in their vehicles without a license. As Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote in his superb profile of the governor this past summer:
In Jon Huntsman’s America, once a child survives the first trimester, he’s well on the way to having a rifle in his small hands and extra money in his pockets.
Back in my political campaign days, an old political hand once advised me to try to avoid having a candidate visit a sporting event. His reasoning was that fans are more than a little irrational in the love for their team, and anything that interfered with their enjoyment of the game could get booed. Applauding fans wouldn’t be news, but booing would be, so unpredictable sports events should be avoided. Or, as Dick Armey once put it, “If you insist on center stage, you get the tomatoes” (Axiom 22).
To recap, in case you aren’t interested in watching the video: a veteran is introduced, along with his family; his accomplishments as a sniper recounted and he gets applauded; then Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden were introduced; then some booing; then everyone announced, “Start your engines.”
The whole stadium, thankfully, wasn’t booing, but there was clearly a significant number of upset fans. Unfortunately, we quite literally don’t know what they were upset about. Would there have been booing if Mrs. Obama were white? Or a man? Or a Republican? Or would any politician shoehorning in on the tribute to a veteran have gotten booed? We don’t know.
What has been far more interesting is the reaction of pundits and their interpretation of the boos. The debate has focused on race: did the fans intend a racial insult or no? There’s no way of asking the fans what they meant by booing, so the only thing pundits can do is project their own meaning onto the event.
Two friends of mine, Robert and Dan, were tweeting about the event. Twitter is good for many things, but nuanced debate isn’t one of them. Dan made a couple of tweets that I’d like to address a bit further. First:
@mikeahub@DCbigpappa it’s inappropriate to boo the first lady for any reason. I don’t care if it’s racial or not.
Dan is utterly right that it’s inappropriate, but whether it’s racial is the whole reason things blew up on Twitter and the blogosphere. First ladies from Lady Bird Johnson to Hillary Clinton have been booed. It was wrong then and wrong now. On first amendment grounds, they have the right to speak. Common courtesy alone should dictate that we listen politely to what they have to say. Booing is nearly always the wrong reaction; it’s inarticulate mockery, more worthy of barnyard animals than humans. It was particularly inappropriate on when Mrs. Obama was ceremonially starting a stock car race.
But since Mrs. Obama is the first black first lady, the question of race comes into many things she does. You may not care if the booing is racial, but many people do. Bad manners don’t get tons of commentary, but racism does.
Dan also made a second, rather more inflammatory tweet:
@mikeahub@DCbigpappa how do a group of people claim to be patriotic then publicly disrespect the first lady?
The booing fans are unquestionably guilty of bad manners, but a lack of patriotism? That seems overstated and unprovable. Measuring patriotism is tricky, for the most valiant soldier may have achieved his deeds not through love of country but through love of his own glory; we cannot measure patriotism without God’s abacus.
The booing of Michelle Obama has become a Rorschach test. What we see in it says more about how we view NASCAR fans than it does about what the NASCAR fans actually think. Going back to the old political hand, it’s pretty clear that booing politicians at sporting events is relatively common. We can’t know if the fans are racists, but we can know what you think of them.
You can follow me on Twitter, which where this blog post got started. I’m usually much less long winded there for some reason.
Proposition: If bombing Libya was to “protect U.S. national security interests,” something the president has the inherent authority to do, there is no regime in the world – friend or foe – that is protected from our president, whoever he might be.
Second Proposition: While Yoo says that “One can argue over the costs, or about the benefits of any individual intervention,” one will always be called names by John Yoo if one argues over the costs and benefits of any individual intervention. Because if he will call you an “isolationist” for not wanting to intervene in a civil war against a cooperative tyrant, there is no foreign conflict in which one can oppose intervention without being an “isolationist.”
Third Proposition: If I can fit into Yoo’s definition of an “isolationist,” at least three-quarters of the American people are “isolationists.” I’m such an “isolationist,” I was supporting the Iraq war before it started and through its darkest months, and supported the Iraq and Afghanistan surges (and believed the fatal flaw in the latter was the president’s call for a timed withdrawal). I hung a 6′ x 6′ sign on my 8th floor dorm window in Februrary 2003 that read simply “WAR NOW.” Indeed, I’m not sure one could be more interventionist than me while still being able to draw lines between places where we should and shouldn’t intervene. Yet Yoo thinks I’m an “isolationist.”
Fourth Proposition: After reviewing the prior three propositions, it’s time to reduce our military budget. The easiest way to prevent future presidents from going egomaniacal in their foreign interventions, and also to reduce our deficit at the same time, is to give future presidents fewer military resources.
Let’s say that you view Rick Perry’s endorsement of a federal marriage amendment and an amendment restricting abortion (a position that’s been in the party platform for some time) as a violation of his pledged support for states’ rights under the 10th Amendment. I can certainly see your point of view, and I’m tempted to be persuaded by it.
But there seems to me to be a large overlap between the people decrying Perry’s support for an abortion amendment and an FMA as being hypocritical on 10th Amendment grounds, and people who would vote against those amendments as a matter of policy preferences. What I’d like to figure out is whether the people using the 10th Amendment as a club against Perry are serious about it, or whether it was simply the first weapon at hand to attack something they disagreed with on policy grounds.
So here’s the question I’d like you to answer: Which of the 17 post-Bill of Rights amendments would you have opposed because they ran afoul of federalist principles?
Looking at them, the 14th Amendment is an obvious and undeniable limit on the power of states. With its imposition of the Bill of Rights onto the states, this amendment severely undercuts the 10th Amendment.
The 13th, 15th, 19th, 25th 24th, and 26th Amendments set national policies for matters that had traditionally been left to the states.
So I’ll make a list: 13, 14, 15, 19, 25 24, and 26. Which of those would you have voted for and which would you have voted against on federalist grounds?
Personally I would have voted against 19 and 26, and I’m undecided on 25 24, even though I support the policies that these amendments achieved. I like 13, 14, and 15, but then I’m obviously a fair-weather federalist because I’d support an amendment restricting abortion, and might vote for a well-crafted FMA.
Dear Every Single Liberal Who Bitched About Citizens United,
P.S. If I could find you all and kick you in the nuts I would.
P.P.S I can’t wait for the scene where Obama personally authorizes the attack to take down Bin Laden over the objections of hackish conservative military advisers. While standing in front of a waving American Flag. With a bald eagle on each shoulder. While personally punching Hitler.
Jamie posted this at 11:22 AM CDT on Thursday, August 11th, 2011 as Politics
I suspect if I were to show you this map and tell you that, in Texas, Travis County (Austin) was the blueberry in the tomato soup, you’d be able to find it.
So let’s say you’re the heavily Republican Texas legislature. And let’s say that Lloyd Doggett’s (D-Austin) continued employment in Washington D.C. really peaves you off. But Austin is already split into three congressional districts that, combined, sprawl out to include all of 17 counties and parts of 4 others. So we’ve already got large swaths of Travis County included into two Republican districts. Most people would say that’s enough.
But not these guys. Under the new plan Travis county will be split into five districts. You would be able to travel from Fort Worth to San Antonio (more than 250 miles north to south), or from Houston to Leakey (over 250 miles east to west) while remaining exclusively in congressional districts that include parts of Austin. Talk about cracking! Almost certainly four of these disctricts would be Republican, and the fifth would combine the most Democratic portions of Austin with the most Democratic portions of San Antonio. East Austin and south San Antonio! Now that’s packing!.
Whatever your thoughts on gerrymandering – I’m ambivalent; it has its pros and cons – you’ve just got to admire the artistry and chutzpah behind this map.
In the past I’ve pointed out that we should factor in a “margin of random” when interpreting polls. Today, Gallup brings us a poll that advises even more caution when looking at poll numbers. In summary, when asked what percentage of Americans are gay or lesbian, 35% responded “More than 25%.” A majority of Americans believe that at least 20% of Americans are gay or lesbian.
One can speculate for hours about the reason why people answered this way. Perhaps it’s a bunch of right-wingers believing they’re Lot, living on the outskirts of Soddom. Perhaps it’s gays who live in gay neighborhoods? Perhaps it’s straights who live near gay neighborhoods? Perhaps it’s casual observers of politics who don’t give a flying frack but, having seen the amount of national discussion of gay issues over the last decade, simply presume there’s got to be a lot of them or else we wouldn’t talk about such a yucky topic so often?
At any rate, regardless of your social circle or political views, it doesn’t take a moment’s thought regarding the demographic consequences of homosexuality to realize that there can’t be many of them. If more than a quarter of our population simply didn’t reproduce, that would be something quite noticeable.
But people don’t think before they answer polls. Only 4% of people got the answer right (NB: I would have been one of those), and a vast majority gave answers that were wildly wrong. So the next time you get upset about a poll showing that 75% of Republicans believe that Obama is a Hindu who was born on Jupiter, or 60% of Democrats believe that George Bush used items he ordered from the Acme catalog to blow up the Twin Towers, or that 99% of Americans believe that God created the universe in a single day because the Biblical seven days seems awfully slow for an omnipotent being, remember that 1 out of 3 people believe that more than 1 out of 4 people are gay.
Many years ago, our old Professor, Jack Pitney, wrote a shrewd assessment of Newt Gingrich that relied heavily on the poetry of Walt Whitman. Each section described a facet of Gingrich’s personality, opening with a quote from Leaves of Grass. Pitney began the section on pragmatism thus:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself;
(I am large–I contain multitudes.)
In fact, he reminds us very much of a certain someone we adore — a say-anything kind of guy who’ll throw a principle under the bus in a heartbeat if he thinks it will curry favor or benefit him politically. A guy whose motto is: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself,” and goes right on singing his song of himself before the cameras without the slightest embarrassment.He is large, he contains multitudes, Mr. Newt does, and you wingnuts ought to cut him some slack. After all, look how well it all turned out for Barack Hussein Obama.
Perhaps the only way to describe the Newtster is to rehash old Walt.
I’m really glad some people, some place voted to put Rand Paul in the Senate:
He’s right, obviously. After watching this, Dorothy argued devil’s advocate: “But if you’re arrested, you have a right to counsel. Why isn’t that slavery?” Comparing the right to counsel to the “right” to medical care is instructive.
The right to counsel only arises because the state is prosecuting you. Neither prosecutions nor de fense attorneys occur in nature. The right to counsel is a right the state gives you because of something the state is doing against you. If there weren’t enough lawyers to represent all the criminal defendants, then the state could either slow down the trial system so that the remaining lawyers would be able to handle all the cases, or simply stop prosecuting people. If no one was prosecuted, no one’s right to counsel would ever be violated.
Health problems do occur in nature, but doctors do not. Cancer is a natural phenomenon, but to become an oncologist a human being has to willfully spend years of his life working very, very hard. If there weren’t enough oncologists, the state would have no way of vindicating a “right” to health care other than to force people to perform a job. The state can’t simply “drop” your cancer the way it can drop your prosecution.
I’ve long thought that there was a certain percentage of people who tell pollsters more or less random things, and that these people frequently make it look like fringe groups are larger than they really are. If, for example, five percent of people will tell a pollster that the square root of four is “rainbows,” then we should discount by 5% all of the politically-motivated “Do you believe in obviously-fringe-and-untrue Belief X?” polls that seem to be circulating these days.
While it’s inherently hard to measure randomness, I think I’ve found something. If you scroll far enough down this poll, you’ll find the question, “How proud would you be to have [NAME] as president?” The options are Extremely, Very, Somewhat, and Not at All.
For Mike Huckabee, it’s 5, 13, 29, 38.
For Mitt Romney, it’s 4, 11, 31, 39.
For Donald Trump, it’s 3, 7, 23, 62.
My argument is that the 10% of people who say they would be “extremely” or “very” proud to have Donald Trump are merely a function of the margin of random. While it might be possible to have be “somewhat” proud of a President Trump (I think a substantial number of people might say either: “I’m somewhat proud that we have a president who won a fair contest and has the consent of the people, regardless of who that president is,” or “I’m somewhat proud that our new president isn’t that asshole he replaced”), from the information we currently have absolutely nobody would actually be “very” or “extremely” proud to have Donald Trump as president. With the information we have before us today, there is no way to possibly believe that.
So there you go: the margin of random is at least 10%. It might be as high as 20% (4 categories, and we know that two of them got 10%, so perhaps they combined for 20%?), but I suspect that people who say random things to pollsters are inclined toward the more offensive answers, such as “I would be extremely proud to have ‘a reality show star who swears at crowds in public and wears a golden retriever on his head‘ as my president,” than to inoffensive answers.
In a just world, government employees who used their position as government employees to threaten businesses regarding their political agenda would be fired and stripped of all post-employment benefits. Unfortunately, Wisconsin does not exist in a just world.
What really ties the whole thing together – the thuggery and the entitlement mentality of unionized government employees – is this: after sending out letters threatning public boycotts of businesses that do not actively support the union (“And sorry, neutral means ‘no’”), the union leader has the gall to complain about threats he gets.
I don’t know much about Wisconsin, but I know that what’s happened there over the past two months reveals how deadly unionized government employees can be to republican governence. The essence of a republic is that citizens rule and are ruled in turn. Unionized government employees simply are not interested in the last half of that bargain. I hope the people of Wisconsin are as repulsed by this thuggery as I am. If not, they’ll get what they deserve.
Apollo posted this at 9:13 AM CDT on Thursday, March 31st, 2011 as Politics
I admit I didn’t see it coming. The article is 7,500 words long. Roughly a third of those deal with Barbour’s childhood and black-white relations in Yazoo City. I used the other two-thirds to acquaint readers with matters that might make Barbour a problematic candidate for Republicans and a problematic president for the rest of us. His career as a Washington lobbyist is a civics-textbook example of the insular, self-dealing political culture that roused the slumbering masses to revolt in last November’s election. Only a handful of outlets followed the lead on Barbour’s lobbying, however— a painful and unnecessary reminder that the influence a writer has over his readers is vastly overrated. It turns out that I have the same luck with bloggers that I have with my dog. I point at a cat prowling the yard and he stares at my finger. . . .
As a TV host, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC shouldn’t be expected to read anything, but her sly misrepresentation of Barbour proved that even her staff has sworn off the printed stuff. The Standard’s “glowing article,” Maddow told her audience, was “clearly designed to elevate Barbour as the future of the GOP.” There’s no reason why anybody should care about my private opinion of Haley Barbour, but I will disclose that it doesn’t entail elevating him as the Republican future. As the story traveled further from its original source, the inaccuracies ramified, like a game of Telephone. Paraphrase begat paraphrase, ending in sheer fantasy. When one blog reported, erroneously, that Barbour had praised segregation itself, liberal opinion split in two: one school said that Barbour merely had been caught making racist comments, the other that Barbour had intentionally made the racist comments in a bid to win Republican, which is to say racist, votes. Al Sharpton counted himself a member of the latter school. Barbour, he said, was executing “a strategy of throw it out there, then pull it back and wink after you’ve sent a signal.” He would know.
Well, it looks as though a few people are quietly worrying or rooting about Mr. Barbour.
As a general rule, whenever presidential fields are dismissed as unusually weak or flawed, it’s a good idea to think back to late 1991 and early 1992, when virtually the entire political universe was convinced that the Democratic pack contained nothing but certain November losers.
This thinking was the product of President George H.W. Bush’s astronomical post-Gulf War popularity, which prompted every A-list Democrat to swear off a ’92 campaign, leaving the party to choose from five no-names (Paul Tsongas, Doug Wilder, Tom Harkin, Bob Kerrey and Bill Clinton) and one has-been (Jerry Brown). Their individual flaws were easy to spot, especially when Clinton was hit with allegations of womanizing and draft-dodging after seeming to separate himself from the pack. The economy was sputtering and Bush’s popularity was returning to earth, but well into ’92, the consensus persisted that the Democrats were doomed in November by their weak, flawed field.
[Haley Barbour] is the only Republican candidate who talks about economic growth as Ronald Reagan would have. When Romney talks about growth, it is in the white-paper language of the Boston private equity swell he used to be. Daniels and Christie have lashed themselves to trimmed budgets, and that’s mostly what they talk about, especially Christie. Fine as it goes – essential, even – but we don’t hear enough growth talk from either Daniels or Christie. . . .The Republican field for 2012 is wide open because no candidate, until Barbour, has made the consistent, compelling and credible case for economic growth. That case should be easy to make. It is simply this: All of America’s problems will get worse with 2% or less annual growth. That’s the growth America had in the first decade of this century. Actually, it was 1.8%, and sure enough, all of our fiscal problems got worse.
Say it loudly: America must grow at 3.5% or better to have any chance of transcending the fiscal messes, while providing a decent social safety net and securing our safety in a hostile world. That is the plain truth of it.
Reagan, inheriting the Nixon-Carter-Ford malaise, understood this. There is evidence to believe that Barbour, assessing the Bush-Obama fiscal disasters, gets it, too.
Barbour also gets another thing that is a core truth about American politics. The pro-growth candidate always comes off as the optimist. And Americans, given a choice, will almost always vote for the optimist.
So let us reiterate why Barbour isn’t the next Reagan.
Reagan governed a then-dynamic state that everybody knew was the wave of the future. People voted with their feet, and California boomed far more any other state in the union. Barbour governs a state that most people (fairly or no) think of as backwater. Mississippi has been stagnant for decades, and more than a few low scoring states have the motto “Thank God for Mississippi (or we’d be in last place in the state rankings).”
Reagan actually had a serious career in the private sector. He may have been a movie star (not necessarily the sign of serious brainpower) and then became President of the Screen Actors Guild, which meant he had to be familiar with a range of issues from labor strikes, Communist infiltration, and intellectual property rights. Barbour, as Ferguson’s Weekly Standard article makes clear, is entirely a political animal. He built his fortune by cutting deals for tobacco and oil companies. They have a first amendment right to lobby, but that doesn’t make their lobbyist presidential timber. Indeed, such lobbying is anathema to much of the free market tea party crowd, who are (thanks to bank bailouts) as skeptical of big business as they are of big government.
The big tent crowd likes to quote Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.” They forget that Reagan violated that commandment, most notably when he challenged Gerald Ford in the 1976 Republican primary. Although everybody in the Republican establishment claims to be a Reaganite now, back when he was actually running for president, he had to fight the establishment. Even William F. Buckley preferred George H.W. Bush for president in 1979 (Buckley feared that Reagan was too old and would lose to Carter as Goldwater lost to Johnson). Haley Barbour, like Bush, was also RNC chairman and is the establishment.
Barbour could potentially be president. But he’s nowhere near so Reaganesque as Karlsgaard claims.
Hubbard posted this at 3:20 PM CDT on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 as Politics
Provoked by my earlier reference to The Prince, I got out my copy (Mansfield translation, natch) to see what further insight I could draw out regarding the Libyan conflict. It occurred to me that of the two sides in the Libyan civil war, one (Gadaffi) is relying on mercenaries, and the other is relying on non-mercenary foreign soldiers, what Machiavelli would call “auxiliaries.”
As always, NM is timeless and cutting. On mercenaries (from chapter 12):
Mercenary and auxiliary arms are useless and dangerous; and if one keeps his state founded on mercenary arms, one will never be firm or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, unfaithful; bold among friends, among enemies cowardly; no fear of God, no faith with men; ruin is postponed only as long as attack is postponed; and in peace you are despoiled by them, in war by the enemy. The cause of this is that they have no love nor cause to keep them in the field other than a small stipend, which is not sufficient to make them want to die for you. They do indeed want to be your soldiers while you are not making war, but when war comes, they either flee or leave. It should be little trouble for me to persuade anyone of this point, because the present ruin of Italy is caused by nothing other than its having relied for a period of many years on mercenary arms. These arms once made some progress for some, and may have appeared bold among themselves; but when the foreigner came [i.e. the French invaded in 1494], they showed what they were.
He’s even more biting about using the soldiers of a foreign sovereign (from chapter 13):
These arms can be useful and good in themselves, but for whoever calls them in, they are almost always harmful, because when they lose you are undone; and when they win, you are left their prisoner. . . . Let him, then, who wants to be unable to win make use of these arms [HAH!], since they are much more dangerous than mercenary arms. For with these, ruin is accomplished; they are all united, all resolved to obey someone else. But mercenary arms, when they have won, need more time and greater opportunity to hurt you, since they are not one whole body and have been found and paid for by you. In them the third party whom you may put at their head cannot quickly seize so much authority as to offend you. In sum, in mercenary arms laziness is more dangerous; in auxiliary arms, virtue is.
Just to clarify, in Libya we are the auxiliaries. NM says, then, that we are more dangerous to the rebels than Gadaffi’s mercenaries are to him. I think that’s right – we don’t know what the rebels’ post-war plans are, but does anyone think we won’t subject them to our democracy project? Gadaffi might actually prevail in this war, and if he does he’ll once again have the run of the place. But the rebels will either lose or be under our thumb. They’ve asked for American help, and they’re going to get it good and hard.
Or are they?
I shall never hesitate to cite Cesare Borgia and his actions. This duke came into Romagna with auxiliary arms, leading there entirely French troops, with whom he took Imola and Forli. But when such arms no longer appeared safe to him, he turned to mercenaries, judging there to be less danger in them; and he hired the Orsini and Vitelli. Then in managing them, he found them doubtful, unfaithful, and dangerous; he eliminated them, and turned to his own arms [i.e. native soldiers]. And one can easily see the difference between these arms if one considers what a difference there was in the reputation of the duke when he had only the French, and when he had the Orsini and Vitelli, and when he was left with his own soldiers and himself over them; his reputation will be found always to have increased, but he was never so much esteemed as when everyone saw that he was the total owner of his arms.
That’s also from chapter 13. We don’t know whether the Libyan rebels have a Cesare Borgia in their midst, but certainly if they were able to win with our help and then unite the country (i.e. raise their own arms) independent of us, they would be able to resist our influence and rule as they saw fit. I find that unlikely; Cesare was what a statistician might call an “outlier.” It’s much more probable that the rebels will either lose, or be undone by pressure from the western allies. Which of these is better for the Libyan people is, I’m sure, covered in a different book.
This post from TigerHawk, which includes a lengthy discussion from George Friedman of Stratfor, is the best analysis of our surrent situation I’ve seen. Frieman comes to the same conclusion I’ve been coming to, which is that our military action seems to be geared toward saving the rebels from destruction without us actually being on the rebels’ side. He also concludes, like me, that this doesn’t make sense. His discussion, obviously, is better and more informed than mine and should be considered required reading.
One of the things Friedman gets at that is worth pointing out is that Gadaffi has a lot of supporters in Libya. Too often in the West we think of all tyrants as having no popular support and ruling by force alone. Certainly they rule through force, but they always come to power with a base of support (otherwise, how would they come to power), and the smart ones, like Gadaffi, use their power to make more friends and punish enemies. In most countries with successful tyrants, the tyrant would probably win a fair election. This is no secret to us Machiavellians, but we are few and must constantly reteach the lessons of The Prince. Unfortunately for all involved, I don’t think Gadaffi needs any refreshers.