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The Charlie Brown Theory of Presidential Power


Greg Sargent of the Washington Post had a complaint this week about how the media’s portrayal of Obama’s Presidency differs from reality.  He thus wrote a piece, titled, “The Green Lantern Theory of Presidential Power”.

The basic explanation goes like this:  he believes many in the media believe the President can transform the political debate into any form he wants (much like the Green Lantern uses his ring of power to do the same) and thus their criticisms are unfair; they ask too much of this President.

Sargent makes some fair points.  Clearly, no President can force the issue if Congress is unwilling to listen.  And I don’t doubt for a second that this Congress largely ignores President Obama.

But the other end of the spectrum comes from liberal defenders of Mr. Obama, who, to continue with Sargent’s line of thought, buy into what I will call “The Charlie Brown Theory of Presidential Power”.

I am sure you hear the liberal complaint often: that Mr. Obama is a poor, victimized soul, because the mean, instransigent Republicans simply are unwilling to accept his glorious plans to save America.  Instead, when the President is ready to make a deal (who again, in their point of view, is willing to compromise left and right to placate the conservatives in Congerss), the Republicans, in their minds, talk and talk and talk…, and at the last second pull the football out from under him, as Charlie Brown/Barack Obama goes flying through the air and lands on his ass.  If only the GOP didn’t pull the football, Obama would surely nail the game winning field goal!


Let us get real, shall we?  Yes, the President does not have some magical ability to bend the will of those in Washington.  He must convince, coerce, and compromise to get that done. This is nothing new.  Liberals act like this is some grand alteration in the political dynamic of our nation’s capital.

Maybe some should watch the movie Lincoln.  In that movie, we see Abraham Lincoln cajole, strong arm, and actually even bribe members of Congress in order to get the 13th Amendment passed.

This is not unique in American history; not in the least.  Go read the papers of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan….even George W. Bush.  It is the same thing.  And they had the same complaints that Obama did.

I admit the acrimony in Washington is at a recent high.  But to absolve Mr. Obama of part of the blame is ludicrous.  From his first day in office, Mr. Obama has…well, acted like the community organizer that he is.  Community organizers do not look for common ground.  They look for acrimony, tumult, and challenge the status quo (Read:  people in the center).  That has been what Obama has done.

And shockingly, many in the center and on the right oppose him.

The lesson here is that neither the ‘Green Lantern Theory’ nor the ‘Charlie Brown Theory’ are totally accurate; most analogies aren’t very accurate.  The truth is that the GOP opposes much of what Obama wants because he is far to the left of the mainstream.  Obama, on the other hand, can’t do what Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan did, which is sacrifice major components of his political beliefs, because that is not who he is.  He has been a life long agitator, not a leader and conciliator like Governors Clinton and Reagan.  It simply is not in him to make the sacrifices necessary to bring the other side to the table.

And so round and round we go.


Reject The Gang Of Eight Plan


As a long time personal proponent of immigration reform, I was open to hearing what the so-called Gang of 8 would come up with as a solution to our immigration problems.  I was certainly skeptical, and far from optimistic, but I was trying to be open-minded about the process.

After seeing the full proposal, and many of the specifics, it is clearly to openly state my opposition to the plan.

My opposition to the plan is not simple or reactionary, but slowly formed after reading the specifics of the bill, which do not appear to solve the bulk of  the problem that faces us today.  As follows:

1.  Fails to insure Border Security.

Any rational, thoughtful analysis of our immigration problems starts with border security.  This was the ultimate failure of the 1986 Immigration reform process signed by Ronald Reagan.  Although he was promised a security measure after the delivery of amnesty, it never occurred, and over 20 million illegal immigrants would cross our borders in the following two decades.

The Gang of Eight appears ready to repeat those mistakes in principle.  To be sure, they are talking strong about security measures.  Led by Marco Rubio and John McCain, they have promised that security will be paramount.

But what of the specifics in the package?

The bill asks the Secretary of Homeland Security “to achieve and maintain effective control in high risk border sectors along the Southern Border.”  This is defined as “effective control” as “persistent surveillance” and a 90 percent apprehension rate at three out of nine total border sectors.

Sounds great.  Except for a myriad of problems.

First, Secretary Janet Napolitano, in Congressional hearings, openly admits there is no way to measure ‘90%’ apprehension rate.   “No one number captures the evolving and extensive nature of the border,” Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing about the immigration bill. “There’s no one metric that’s your magic number.”

She stated that currently, DHS uses a process of estimation that guesses at the ‘trend’ that is occurring.  This is an amorphous and virtually non-existent standard that is clearly susceptible to manipulation.

Second, the one and only strategy that over time has shown significant success in reducing immigrant crossing (other than the recession which made it economically less desirable to cross) is the border fence.  In places where the border fence was built, there was an estimate (again, by the vague DHS standard) of 80% drop in crossing.

So, of course, this gang of 8 has no serious plan to build a fence.

The legislation allows the secretary to develop a “fencing strategy” for border security…and nothing more.  In fact, there is no requirement to build ANY fencing, and there is barely any funding for the prospect anyway.

To allay the fears of skeptics, the Gang added the prospect of the “Southern Border Security Commission”.  This commission is supposed to guarantee that border security is achieved before any of the legalization processes start.  The rub is, the commission has no force of law or power to insure their recommendations.  They are a advisory group…and nothing more.  The DHS can simply override their recommendations, and still be following the law.  Even worse, the Secretary of Homeland Security is given wide latitude in enforcing the law.  Considering this administration’s laughable enforcement measures, and complete dismissal of the laws as they stand, anyone that gives them the benefit of the doubt in enforcement is a fool.

2.  Back Taxes

Marco Rubio has made a lot of comments about the ‘punishments’ that illegal aliens will have to accept on their path to legalization.  One of these is the penalty on paying back taxes.

Only if the bill actually accomplished that feat.

In fact, the bill as is does not force illegals to pay any penalties whatsoever.  What it merely requires is that they pay “any applicable federal tax liability,” defined as “all Federal income taxes assessed.”  Taxes that are assessed means only those liabilities that have been officially recorded by the IRS.  The problem, obviously, is that most illegal aliens have been paid in cash.  Thus, there is no way for the IRS to verify what liability is, in fact, owed.

Thus, an illegal alien could claim they made no money…and that they owe no penalty.  And for all practical purposes, there is no realistic recourse for the IRS.  So on top of no criminal penalty, there would also be no financial penalty for the majority of those involved.  This includes no penalties for those that stole and used illegal social security numbers, and would give amnesty to employers who knowingly hired illegal aliens previously.

3. Merit based immigration system

The modernization portion of the plan seeks to attempt to focus immigration policy on the economic needs of the country, instead of the ‘family based’ immigration system that favored relatives of those arriving on our shores, regardless of their training or background.

I support this in concept, however the current system still gives preferences to family.  Additionally, many lobby groups, including the Congressional Black Caucus, are pushing the Gang to again allow quotas from various countries around the globe, in the name of diversity.

I would prefer a system which is color blind, and based on credentials.  Have quotas based on need.  For example, let us assume you need 100,000 computer science majors.  Have a lottery, in which the names of all qualified applicants are placed.  Then every year, meet your quota.  This would be the fairest method to choose who should come, and from where.

4. Public Charge

Along the same lines as above, a rational immigration plan should block any candidates that would, with reasonable expectation, become a burden on our welfare state.  Today, this is not consider at all (look no further than the Boston Bombers for evidence).

In fact, not only does the Gang of 8 bill not take it into consideration…it specifically excludes the criteria from consideration.  It states that for the purpose of determining eligibility to register for provisional legal status — the first step on the pathway to citizenship — that section 212(a), paragraph (4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (the act of the 1952 law that prevents anyone who is deemed a risk to end up on welfare or other programs) “shall not apply.”

Not only that.  Additionally, as soon as legal residence was obtained, these immigrants would be eligible for all legal benefits.  That includes welfare, food stamps, and Medicaid.  Although theoretically it is supposed to exclude Obamacare benefits, it would give them access to the Medicaid system, at which point they would tacitly be within the Obamacare system.

This does not even begin to calculate the costs to the overall system, for which all legal residents, including all illegal aliens one year after the bill is passed, would be eligible.  Yes, some of that will be countered by increase federal taxes paid by these new legal residents, but it is not clear whatsoever if this would be a net loss or net gain to the Federal treasury.  The Gang of 8 plan simply ignores the issue all together.


For all the talk on the Right, we still are not focusing on the real issues that most Americans are interested in.  Without going into extensive depth, here are the issues as I see them, in order of priority:

1.  Secure the border.  This will include a physical fence, border police, and drones and other electronic surveillence.

2.  Confirmation of border security success.  First and foremost, the responsibility for determining success must reside in someone other than the Federal government.  Why?  Because under this administration, we have seen the manipulation that takes place for political reasons.  No, the confirmation of success must be by some bipartisan group, preferably a group made up of both federal and state jurisdictions, where there is equal voice for both.

3.  A strong e-Verify system.  Not only must the system be foolproof; it almost must have harsh penalties, both for the immigrant and the employer. The penalties should be so harsh as to make anyone considering violating the law to think twice before even considering hiring someone without legal status.

4.  Deportation system.  This is not talked about much at all in the Gang of 8 bill.  But a simple question must be answered by anyone voting for this:  what happens to new illegal aliens that are found in this country?  Anyone that is unable to answer this simple question should not be given any credibility whatsoever.  The simple answer is that they must be deported immediately.  There should be no second chances, once this plan goes through.  However, the current plan is less than clear on this point.

5.  Legalization process.  I am ultimately not against the legalization process as stated in the Gang of 8 plan.  My preferred solution is to have those that wish to gain citizenship first return to their home countries; those that don’t want that option may state as legal immigrants.

However, I am willing to concede the point if I get the border security promises that are essential to this deal.  The reality is without giving up much more on security, there is no way any special legal exemption will pass the House of Representatives, as it stands.

I accept the argument that illegals now in this country have a form of amnesty already.  Furthermore, I accept that no drastic solution, like deportation, can ever be a realistic option.  But every argument made on this issue resides on the ability to secure the border.  Without that, there is fundamentally no reason to pass any bill.


This was cross posted at the Spitcracker Picayune


Pontifications On Boston


I have reserved my statements on the entire Boston Marathon bombing for several reasons, but in many ways, I am glad I did.  It forced me to consolidate some thoughts that allowed me to work through my initial knee jerk reactions.

So, stream of consciousness:

1.  The instant I heard about the bombs, I prayed for the victims.  I thought many more would die than did; and although this was a horrendous tragedy, this could have been far worse.  A more enclosed or more heavily populated situation would have resulted in far more deaths and maiming.

2.  The media, again, proved itself unworthy of any faith or respect.  Virtually every network I watched within the first few hours focused on…anti-government right wing groups.  To be fair, I would not have excluded that possibility at all.  But I also wouldn’t have excluded the possibility of liberal extremists, communists, animal rights groups, etc. But this had, from the very beginning, the hallmarks of Muslim terrorists. The media simply  went with their biases, more than the little evidence they had at hand.

The inability of the media to focus on the most apparent and most likely suspects in this bombing is not disastrous, but is worrisome.  There is a weird thread of political correctness now permeating the liberal intelligentsia of our country, both in the media and within politics.  Just listen to the ambivalence of our politicians, from the President on down, to target the most likely culprits (Islamofascists), and watch their discomfort now that the culprits are proven to be Muslim fanatics.  They are having great difficulty in facing that reality.

One other mistake by the media was publishing pictures of random people with backpacks at the Marathon, the worst offenders being the New York Post.  I understand the reason, but publishing pictures of many innocent individuals seems amateurish to me.

3.  Although the media was inept during much of this story, that doesn’t really hold true for our intelligence services.  I have friends within the FBI, and very early on, as the facts of the type of bomb and other tidbits came in, they were very quick to focus on a Islamic threat.  They let the facts drive their investigation, unlike the media who apparently let their every delusion drive their stories.

4.  Applaud the Boston Police, and the task force that identified and captured the bombers.

5.  As for the Watertown lock down.  There has been a lot of talk about the legality of their forced martial law (without imposition of martial law) to capture the last bomber.

I will say this: if the police came to my house, and asked to search it, I would probably allow them to do so.

That said, the real legal question is if I refused to allow them access to my house.  See the video below…did the homeowners have the ability to refuse the police in this situation?

Even if they could have refused the police entry, then what?  Every American should have the constitutional right to refuse entry to anyone without a warrant.  What would have happened in this case?  Would they have broken down the door?  Or would they have gone and received a warrant?  Clearly, the second option would be preferable.

I think the appropriate process in this situation would have been to go and obtain a search warrant for the general area, that also included the domiciles in that area.  The search would be exclusively for the bombers, and any additional criminal evidence would not be permissible outside of the specifics of this warrant.  That would have given the police the power to search where they wished, while still giving some judicial oversight.

It will be interesting to see where the ACLU and other liberal liberty groups end up on this issue.  A review of the procedures would also be beneficial to citizens and police alike, to see what was done right, what was done wrong, and what can be done better.

6.  The facts of whether these individuals received international support in this attack still remains elusive.  But it is clear that the war on terror exists, whether this administration accepts that term or not.

7. Finally, as for the criminal process regarding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Initially, the Justice Department did not provide Miranda rights to Tsarnaev, using a federal exemption that allows the government to reserve those rights in case of an ‘imminent threat’.  I think clearly this was the right decision.

There has been further discussion about whether he should have been treated as an Enemy combatant (EC).  I again agree with the Obama Administration.  I have been quite clear on this issue, as have most conservatives outside of the John McCain/Lindsey Graham axis.  If you are a legal American resident, you deserve all constitutional protections, no matter how evil an individual you are.

The exception to this, of course, is if you are actively working with a foreign nation or overseas terror group.  In that case, and that case alone, you could treat an American citizen as an EC.  However, the evidence does not show that to be the case yet.

Furthermore, as an American citizen, the appropriate criminal prosecution of such connections may be treason.  To try him for treason would fit the rule of law, while protecting our constitutional rights.

In this case, we simply did not have to go through an alternative legal course to receive the justice the country deserves.  The Obama Administration so far has made the right call.

This was cross posted at the Spitcracker Picayune


Thoughts On The Immigration Proposal

Bipartisan Group Of Senators Announce Major Agreement On Immigration Reform

So the Gang of Eight (I prefer Banda de los Ocho myself) is about to release their plan for immigration reform, after months of behind closed door dealing, leaks, intrigue, accusations, and other nonsense.

According to the National Review, these are the key points to the proposal:

1.  Modernizing the legal immigration system

There will be a shift away from the current family-based system, and more emphasis on giving visas to high-skilled immigrants, particularly those who have Ph.D.s in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. There will be a new visa created for guest workers, called the W visa, which will be a three-year permit given to low-skilled workers.

2.  Securing the border and ending illegal immigration.

If the legislation passes, the Department of Homeland Security will be required to be able to surveil the entire border at all times (using technology, such as drones) and to be successfully catching nine out of ten people trying to cross the border.

Additionally, they will have to implement universal E-Verify, which all employers, including small businesses, will have to use.

3.  Legalization process for current illegal immigrants.

Those who are illegally here will have two options: Return to their native country and be able to apply for a green card in five years, or remain in the U.S. and apply for temporary legalization status. In order to be eligible for the temporary-legalization process, immigrants will have to show that they have been in the country continuously for at least two years, for which documents such as medical records and utility bills will be accepted as proof. They will also need to pass a background check; those with, say, speeding tickets would probably be fine, but a felony conviction would not be permissible.

Those who are given temporary legal status will be required to pay a fine and back taxes.

Those with temporary legal status will be allowed to be unemployed about four to six months; longer than that, they risk losing legal status. Anyone who is no longer able to be self-sufficient and needs federal assistance would lose legal status and be eligible for deportation. While Obamacare’s benefits apply to all who are legally present in the United States, the Gang has agreed that those with legal status through this legislation will be an exception, and will not be able to get the benefits of the health-care law.


Now, the above seems reasonable…but details will matter…as will the politics.

1.  What happens if, after 10 years of Federal incompetence (which is to be expected), the border security measures have failed?  Democrats at that time will certainly whine about the process taking too long, and will blame Republicans for the failure.  Even though Obama will largely be responsible for the implementation of that system, who will get the blame, in reality?

2.  Is it even possible to catch 90% of the illegals crossing the border?  It is a reasonable question, since our best data shows that even in areas where we are doing a good job, we only catch about 50% of illegal immigrants.  And that doesn’t even discuss the reality that as of right now, the Department of Homeland Security admits that its measures for how effective border security is doing is flawed and not accurate.  There is no accurate metric to even measure success and failure.

3.  The law calls for deportation of all illegals who have arrived less than two years before the bill is passed, and any coming in the future.  Do we really trust Barack Obama to deport these people?  Along with their children?  How likely is that?

4.  As a practical, the E-verify system may be the most critical part of this entire puzzle.  The border really will never be secure.  However, you can virtually ensure that no one can work in the country.  But how harsh are the punishments going to be?  They must be very harsh, and strictly enforced, otherwise the incentive to find a way into the country will remain.

5.  Will the plan cause long term assimilation?  This is an issue that is almost never discussed, but is vital.  Every other immigration trend has resulted in the classic melting pot of ethnicity and culture.  Will this do that, or will in cause these groups to splinter into their own enclaves?  This is one reason I still believe English as the national language is an important requirement.

6.  Maybe Republicans should demand the fence be completed?  I know, it has become passe to suggest it, but in a poll out today, 53% of Americans support the proposal.  Link the border security to the building of the fence, and use the penalties paid by illegals to fund the fence construction?

Ultimately, this entire episode should flash warning signs to all Republicans and Conservatives.  I have been a big proponent of some immigration reform plan for years (you can see my proposal from 2009 here), but without a firm guarantee of securing the border for all time, I am very circumspect.

Furthermore, this will be a moment of truth for several Republicans, most notably Sen. Marco Rubio.  I believe he has been honest in his belief that there is a conservative based solution to this.  And in all honesty, I am surprised he has gotten the security promises that are seen in this deal.  The unfortunate part is that going forward, I am not sure that the security portion of this plan is at all achievable, and even worse, there is no definitive way to prove one way or another if it has been achieved.

The same argument that has been made for a decade stands:  border security first.  The repeat of the 1986 immigration failure cannot be allowed again.  And until that is shown to be the case, I remain a skeptic.

This was cross posted at Spitcracker Picayune




Gov. Kasich Should Lead On Medicaid Reform


Gov. John Kasich has largely been a conservative success story.  He became the Governor of the great state of Ohio with an $8 billion deficit and lagging economy.  Today, Ohio has a surplus, is adding jobs monthly, and is considering significant across the board tax cuts to stimulate the economy more.

But on health care, John Kasich is so far failing.

Last month, Kasich announced that he would opt in to the Medicaid program in the Affordable Care Act.  Long thought of as the leading edge of federal encroachment under the ACA, the Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision last summer provided states with the choice of opting out without repercussions from the Federal government.  Yet, Kasich, along with several of his GOP gubernatorial brethren like Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rick Scott of Florida, made the calculation that the dangling carrot of addition Federal funding was too good to pass up.

For these states, this is a short term benefit with a long term lagging cost.  The Federal funding for Medicaid expansion is only funded for the next three years, after which funding slows.  The below graph, which is specific to Virginia but similar for all states facing this conundrum, shows that once the funding tapers off, the cost to state taxpayers will skyrocket.


Furthermore, as it stands, hospitals in Ohio lose more money on Medicaid patients than they lose on patients without any insurance, and under this expansion, that would worsen. Furthermore, studies have shown that as Medicaid coverage expands, what really happens is that the costs are displaced to those with insurance, thus increasing their costs.

Maybe the worst fact in this whole debate is that Medicaid is broken.  Patients covered under Medicaid have worse outcomes than those without insurance at all.  There is an immense amount of data demonstrating this.  And yet, GOP Governors want to expand this failed program?

These issues are just the tip of the iceberg.  But how does Gov. Kasich deal with these facts?  Simply put, he hasn’t.

Kasich and the other GOP Governors have missed a golden opportunity.  In its frantic effort to try to expand Medicaid, the Obama Administration as well as Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius have been willing to bend over backwards to make deals to states.  They have virtually opened up the playbook, allowing for massive experimentation.  The most extreme example is Arkansas, where Democrat Gov. Mike Beebe asked the Federal government to allow Arkansas to use the federal money from the Medicaid expansion to purchase private insurance for those who would otherwise have qualified for Medicaid.  This was virtually unprecedented, but the Department of Health and Human Services gave the go ahead.

With this kind of leverage, you would think the answer to their problem would be simple.  James Capretta of the National Review and Charles Blahous of the Mercatur Center at George Mason University have both suggested similar paths.  The governors of all these states should band together and form a coalition to reform Medicaid.  The White House would be hard pressed to challenge the states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, and others if they made demands together.

The Governors should focus on several key tenets:

1.  Federal funding, at a level to be determined, should not be temporary but should be considered permanent until changed by Congress.  Furthermore, they should ask the Federal government for funding based on a per capita calculation (a specific amount for every person eligible) instead of a block grant; such a funding measure would provide a more accurate way of providing services to individuals.

2. All programs now created should not be created under temporary waivers, but permanent Federal grants, with the states having the choice of reforming the systems at a later date.

3.  With this control, then states, and states alone, should be held accountable for the Medicaid services provided.

4.  States then should promote a more free market approach, using a combination of insurers, health savings accounts, and other methods to lower overall cost for consumers.

This is the moment for true conservatives like Gov. Kasich and others to lead on this.  Yes, the path I have illuminated, along with other health experts, will be difficult, will have political costs both to them and the Obama Administration, and ultimately will likely cost the Federal Government more money.

However, in the long run, maintaining the current Medicaid program, which is fundamentally broken, is ill-advised.  If Governors go ahead with this approach, it is unlikely we will see tangible reform for many years.  However, banding together and using the leverage of the moment can provide long term sustainable reform that will provide better results in the long run.











ADDENDUM:  These are added links following the NEJM Oregon study results, showing no health benefits for the most part with Medicaid.





And my commentary:


DOMA Case…It’s About Taxes!


There has been extensive discussions about how the case of United States v. Windsor., the case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), will be decided.

After yesterday’s oral arguments, virtually every court watcher believes DOMA is in serious trouble, after most of the justices showed severe doubts about either its legality under equal protection grounds, or under federalism grounds via the 10th amendment.

Of course, we know how precise predictions like this are.  Using oral arguments, I and others were sure, beyond a doubt, that Obamacare would also be declared unconstitutional.  Of course we all know how that worked out.  Chief Justice Roberts declared the mandate legal because it wasn’t a mandate…but a tax.

And therein may be the most hilarious segue of them all.  Because when you look at the Windsor case, what is at the heart of it?

Edith Windsor married her longtime partner Thea Spyer in 2007.  When Speyer died in 2009, she left her estate to Windsor, who got hit with a $360,000 tax bill. Because of DOMA’s definition of marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman,” federal tax benefits that shield married couples from the estate tax didn’t apply.

So ultimately, this case may not be about equal rights at all.  It may end up being purely about…taxation.

Now, do I think Roberts et al are going to consider this based on taxation grounds alone?  No.  Of course not.  Just listen to the oral arguments!  How could this be purely a case regarding the ability of the federal government to tax individuals?

I mean, that would be ridiculous. 

Let hilarity ensue

This was crossposted at the Spitcracker Picayune


CPAC Winners/Losers



1. Gov. Scott Walker

Of all the speakers at CPAC this year, I think Walker may have improved his position the most.  Walker was already a conservative hero, but he is starting to provide a vision of what conservative leadership under him would look like.  He did deliver the red meat, as other speakers did, but at the same time he got the convention to focus on the issues that matter:  jobs and the economy.  And although Barack Obama has made us forget this, Presidential voters prefer Governors over legislators.  He could be a force to be reckoned with.

2.  Sen. Ted Cruz

In the past few weeks, Cruz has elevated his status immensely, on issues as far reaching as the budget, gun control, and drones.  Cruz knows how to hit all the right buttons when it comes to liberals, and they are starting to despise him. He must be doing something right.

3.  Dr. Ben Carson

The cult hero’s stature grows.  He announced his retirement at the convention, and then gave a blistering analysis of the Obama administration, accusing him of trying to destroy the country.  It will be interesting to see what he chooses as his next step on the big stage.

4.  Sen. Rand Paul

Paul was already riding high after his filibuster, and this speech continued the ride.  Young conservatives flocked to his speech, and Paul delivered.  But the same problems remain going forward:  can he blend his type of libertarianism with the base of the party?

5. Gov.  Mitt Romney

Surprised? I was.  I expected a polite reception, as we are wont to do for losers.  But you know what?  There was honest-to-goodness warmth for Mitt.  The crowd gave him an extremely warm reception.  In turn, Romney gave an honest assessment of his failures, and that the GOP must learn from them to be successful in the future.  He also pointed to the way forward: focus first on our biggest success right now, the thirty GOP Governors across the country that are pushing reform, regardless of what the Beltway does.  And furthermore, he urged focusing on innovation and business growth, which is at the heart of a vibrant economy.  I don’t think Romney has any real future in public life, but this is a brilliant man that is still a wealth of knowledge; and amazing, it took losing last fall for conservatives to finally find some love for him.


5.  Gov. Bobby Jindal

I don’t think Jindal (or for that matter, several of the speakers below) were bad per se; in fact, I enjoyed parts of Jindal’s speech.  And some of his policy initiatives, like his tax reform, are brilliant  I just think that Jindal pales in comparison to other speakers when it comes to natural charisma.  Maybe it doesn’t matter, but it usually does.

4.  Sen. Marco Rubio

Rubio gave a really good speech.  It hit all the great points about conservatism and where we go from here.  The problem?  He ignored his signature issue, immigration.  Look, Rubio’s plan (any way, the version that has leaked publicly) is borderline amnesty.  If he believes that, he should defend it to conservatives.  If he doesn’t support it, say so.  It was disappointing that when given this opportunity, he didn’t take a courageous stand, one way or another.  Probably the right political move, but I still was not pleased.

3.  Rep. Paul Ryan

I like Paul Ryan a lot but more and more I don’t seem him taking ‘the next step’.  Maybe he would be a great Speaker of the House or Majority Leader. He has a brilliant understanding of numbers and the budget.  But he may not have what it takes to get to the next level, and honestly, he may serve conservatives best by staying in Congress.

2.  Rep. Michelle Bachmann

If there was an example of someone whose time has passed, it is Michelle Bachmann.  She hit her peak with the Tea Party, but right now, does she present any vision of a future for conservatism?  If she does, I don’t see it.

1.  Gov. Jeb Bush.

Again, like several listed above, it is not that he gave a bad speech.  It is just that as once being one of the leading conservative voices in America, it is amazing at how unimpactful his speech was.  The crowd was polite but largely dismissive.  Jeb is going to run in 2016…I honestly believe that.  But I really do wonder if he missed his window of opportunity, and he should have run in 2012.  He is an accomplished governor, no question, but like Bachmann, what real vision does he provide for a party looking for one?


CPAC 2013


As my previous post showed, I have serious issues with CPAC organizers this year.  But let us not allow that distract from the greatness of this conference.  It should be fascinating.

I will be posting the best videos of the day here, starting on Thursday, but just  a simple guide of the expected best speeches of the conference:

Thursday, March 14

1:30 PM  Sen Rand Paul

2:30 PM  Sen. Macro Rubio

3:15 PM  Gov. Rick Perry

3:30 PM  Sen. Tim Scott

7:30 PM  Fmr. Sen. and new President of Heritage Foundation Jim Demint


Friday, March 15

9:30 AM  Rep. Paul Ryan

1:00 PM   Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney

2:25 PM   Gov. Bobby Jindal

7:30 PM   Fmr. Gov. Jeb Bush


Saturday, March 16

9:15 AM   Gov. Scott Walker

9:30 AM   Fmr. Speaker Newt Gingrich

10:00 AM Dr. Ben Carson

12:00 PM  Fmr. Gov. Sarah Palin

2:30 PM    Mia Love

5:10 PM   Sen. Ted Cruz


Come back periodically over the next few days, as I post videos and commentary.


CPAC Live Stream

Streaming by Ustream




Gov. Scott Walker

Dr. Ben Carson

Fmr. Rep. Artur Davis

Phyllis Schlafy

Fmr. Gov. Sarah Palin


Rep. Paul Ryan

Sen. Kelly Ayotte

Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney (introduction by Gov. Nikki Haley)

Gov. Bobby Jindal

Fmr. Gov. Jeb Bush


Fmr. Rep. Allen West

Sen. Rand Paul

“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered. I don’t think we need to name any names, do we? Our party is encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom. The new GOP will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere. If we’re going to have a Republican party that can win, liberty needs to be the backbone of the GOP. We must have a message that is broad, our vision must be broad, and that vision must be based on freedom.”

“There are millions of Americans, young and old, native and immigrant, black, white and brown, who simply seek to live free, to practice a religion, free to choose where their kids go to school, free to choose their own health care, free to keep the fruits of their labor, free to live without government constantly being on their back. I will stand for them. I will stand for you. I will stand for our prosperity and our freedom, and I ask everyone who values liberty to stand with me. Thank you. God bless America.”

Sen. Marco Rubio

“We don’t need a new idea. There is an idea. The idea’s called ‘America’ and it still works…Our people have not changed. The vast majority of the American people are hard-working taxpayers. Our challenge is to create an agenda applying our principles.”

“Do not underestimate, I know this movement does not, the impact that the breakdown of the family is having on the American people and our long-term future.”

“[Opposing abortion] does not make you a chauvinist…opposition to gay marriage doesn’t make you a bigot.”

“We can’t solve every war. We can’t be involved in every armed conflict, but we also can’t be retreating from the world.”

Gov. Rick Perry

Sen. Tim Scott


This CPAC Fan Wants CPAC Reform


The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is the preeminent conservative gathering of the year. For years, conservative luminaries such as Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, and every other name you can imagine have seen it as a destination of choice.

I had the honor to go to CPAC in 2008, and listen to George W. Bush speak in his last year of his Presidency.  It was a fascinating experience, especially in the light of the dimming conservative movement at the time.

However, CPAC has taken a turn for the worse.

This is the first year that I can remember where the organization clearly made political choices for the audience.  The first ill-advised move was to virtually ban GOProud, the Republican Gay group.  By allowing them to participate, they by no means would be endorsing any policy initiative of the group…they would only be providing a seat at the table.  Instead, Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud’s co-founder and executive director, will be participating in a panel hosted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute entitled “A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance Out of the Closet.” As of this morning, panelists included Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Liz Mair and Jonah Goldberg.  This is not even an official CPAC event…basically, Mr. LaSalvia had to come in through the back door.

This policy of exclusion further extended to Governors Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell, both of whom have angered conservatives in recent months.  Both have raised taxes and considered expansion of Medicaid in their states, further angering the conservative base.

To me, the entire process is somewhat disheartening.  I have always viewed conservatism as the grandest exchange of ideas. We believe the market, and the market of ideas, is integral in formulating the best government and leadership possible.

Edmund Burke, the Father of conservatism, said it best:

When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people.

The organizers of CPAC should take a serious look at their decision making process.  They like have become too exclusionary, too driven to push their own ideology rather than foster an exchange of ideas.  Conservatism must be open to all ideas, and allow the masses to accept and reject the intellectual concepts that best allow the nation to prosper.

Again, a conservative can never go wrong by heeding Edmund Burke:

But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.

CPAC can and should do better.


Obama’s Redemption?


Conservatives love to despise Barack Obama.  The first reason is because he was a neophyte with little experience that rose to the top leadership position in the world, mostly riding his media status.  Second, because he is arrogant and espouses his moral superiority, even when being a hypocrite about it.  Third, because his own analysis of his leadership skills is woefully incorrect.

On most of the grand issues of the day, Mr. Obama has taken the wrong path. He could have built a stimulus program in early 2009 that actually promoted job growth.  He could have pushed Democrats to build a health care plan that reduced and restrained costs instead of increasing them.  And then for the last two years, he could have pushed tax reform and entitlement changes instead of reverting to the classic tax and spend mantra that has haunted liberals for decades.

But he has always taken a pass.

Last week proves hope springs eternal.  Mr. Obama invited a group of Republican Senators to dinner to talk about how to move forward in his final four years as an American President.  And according to reports, Obama was more open and honest than he has been in the past.

Despite liberal whining about how much Barack Obama has had to endure from Republicans, the reality is he has never faced an opponent greater than himself.  Obama’s primary problem through out his Presidency is the inability to tell everyone, including his own party, to ‘Go to hell’, and simply lead on an issue.

Leadership, true leadership, begets public support.  See Rand Paul’s crusade on civil rights and drones last week, ironically occurring the same time as Obama’s dinner round table with the GOP.  This wasn’t an issue that the media, Republicans or Democrats for the most part cared about.  But the public did care.  There is a growing unease of the every expanding power of the President when it comes to such things as drones.  Paul simply was willing to take a stand, even if he knew there was no path to victory in his endeavor.

Obama has never done that.  Can you think of a stand Obama took that was not cautious, thought out, and strategically positioned in such a way that Obama could either back down or blame someone else for its failure?

During his dinner with the GOP, Obama seemed reluctant to lead on the issues, again.  From Peggy Noonan, from an unnamed Senator at the meeting:

Senator No. 1: When pressed on the question, the president seemed to step back. “His idea of a process is, ‘You guys figure it out and work with my staff, and if you need me call me.’ But in the end, unless the president really gets engaged and forces meeting after meeting, I don’t see how you get past the logjam.”

…or this…

Senator No. 2: “At the end I mentioned, ‘Share [with us] how you see this going forward.’ ” Here the president “got hazy. . . . I told him this will never work without adult supervision from the White House. I don’t think he comprehends that this is part of getting something done.”

Senator No. 2 said he planned to “press” the president in coming days “to lead, to exert authority.”

Obama, at this moment, has a chance to lead.  What does he honestly have to lose?  He was a solid victory for re-election, is the undisputed leader of his party, with Democrats (even if they disagree with him) willing to go to the mat for him.  He will never face election again, and the only thing remaining in his future his his legacy, which at the moment, is mixed.

But is the President willing to use that political capital?  The above quotes lead you to believe the answer is ‘No’.  A report from the Politico states more than half of the Democrats in Congress oppose any changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which is fiscally insane.  Another quote from Noonan’s article:

At certain points in the conversation the president, according to the senator, said that even if he wanted to agree with the Republicans on certain specific questions there would be a rebellion in his own party: “He said that a few times. But that’s an abdication. You have to lead! You have to educate as only a president can with a bully pulpit, you have to bring your party along.”

Tuesday was the first time that I can remember that President Obama speaking to his liberal caucus, and telling them hard truths. Obama met with Senate Democrats, and was up front for the need for entitlement reform.  He stated his need to exchange entitlement cuts for more taxes.  We can debate the numbers and the actual specifics, but for Obama to tell liberals they will have fundamental changes to entitlement programs is some what of a breakthrough.

A tremendous amount of opposition to this kind of plan exists among the liberal base, and I am not sure that the President realizes what kind of fight he is in with his own party if he is honest about achieving these goals.  And of course, from our side, we conservatives have a huge trust deficit with this President, after 5 years of having the football pulled out from under us, Charlie Brown-style.  Mr. Obama will have to be forthright and honest through out the process to build enough respect and faith to get such a big deal done.

I have long said this is not an intellectual barrier for the President, but a psychological one.  Barack Obama has long been a cautious person, unwilling to take public stands that reflect poorly on his character or his public persona. Maybe this is what comes from being America’s greatest African American politician; maybe it is a reflection of African American society today to avoid risk.  I don’t know.  But I know that reality exists for this man.

So ultimately, Mr. Obama could lead.  He could get a grand bargain of tax reform, entitlement recalculation, and budgetary changes that could put the country on a long term path of fiscal sanity and economic prosperity.  It would mean he would have to compromise with the GOP and push back against liberals in his own party.  Ironically, I seem to believe the latter is much harder for this President than the former.

Cross posted at the Spitcracker Picayune

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