Sleeping on the job?

Over the last few months Richard Douglas has quietly been exploring a run for the U.S Senate. In an e-mail he sent out to supporters, though, he took aim at those he may be working with as well as Barack Obama.

In two paragraphs he expertly dissected the problem:

The President wished to avoid congressional review altogether. But the Corker-Cardin concession of the Senate’s treaty prerogatives was seen in the White House as a palatable alternative. Why? Because Corker-Cardin puts the success or failure of congressional action into the hands of Chris Van Hollen, Ben Cardin, and other reliable Obama yes-men in the House and Senate. By passing Corker-Cardin instead of demanding Senate treaty review, the Republican-led Congress marginalized itself.

How could any of this happen? Because the Republican-led Congress – the Senate in particular – allowed it to happen by not using its powers, during the seven months it had the chance, to defend its equities and change the President’s behavior. Beginning in January, the Republican-led Congress should have brought action on the President’s legislative priorities to a screeching halt until he wised up. Instead, Congress enacted those priorities.

Running against Congress seems to be the norm today for both parties, as the current leaders seem to be the gang who can’t shoot straight. Unfortunately, we have one side who is afraid of a government shutdown they would be blamed for and the other side takes advantage of their fears. So you have the group of spineless jellyfish who pass for majority leadership in Congress.

Douglas doesn’t have the bluster of Donald Trump, but he has foreign policy expertise in spades based on years of working in that area. It’s no wonder John Bolton is willing to put his name and reputation on the line for Douglas.

At this time, foreign policy is not the key issue on the table for 2016. But it lies at the heart of a number of peripheral issues such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and accusations of currency manipulation by China, the continuing saga of illegal immigration at our southern border, and the Keystone XL pipeline, to name a few. We may not be in an overt war in Iraq, Ukraine, or Syria, but there is pressure to stand by our allies, including Israel, instead of making overtures to old enemies Iran or Cuba.

The tone of his entire e-mail makes it clear that he’s expecting Chris Van Hollen to be the Democratic Senate opponent, which is probably the conventional wisdom. Van Hollen has been a reliable party man and helped to raise a lot of money, but can you name any singular House achievements of his? With this message, Richard makes clear he can be a leading voice on the Senate’s traditional role in guiding foreign policy – and not a moment too soon.

The President, MoveOn, and Iran

August 4, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

By Cathy Keim

On Thursday night I listened in on a conference call that President Obama had with people from MoveOn, OFA, CREDO, Americans United for Progress and many more groups. The purpose of the call was for the President to solicit support for his agreement with Iran. He encouraged his supporters to get more active, get loud, get involved, and get informed to make their voices heard in Congress because the opposition (that would be me) is fierce, well financed, and relentless. He assured them that if they would counteract with facts, then the truth would win. He stated that it is rare to have something so clear in front of us, but that his bully pulpit alone is not enough.

His presentation may have thrilled his troops, but it left me amazed by his capacity to lie so fluently. He stated that this agreement is not just the best of bad options. It is a very good deal. He presented his case, but it was so weak and pitiful, with internal inconsistencies, that I was wondering how these people could possibly fall for this.

He stated flat out that the only option was this deal or war. The tired warmongers that brought us the Iraq War are back to agitate against this wonderful agreement because they only want another war.

If you have not seen the following ad, then please sit back and enjoy while Jack Black and his friends explain that the Iranians love their children, so if the warmongers in the USA would behave, there would not be any problems. (But then there is that inconsistency in the final moment when he “hopes” they love their children too, and Jack is right to question it. The Iranians sent thousands of children to their deaths as minesweepers in the Iraq-Iran War.

The president assured his callers that Iran would never get nuclear weapons under this treaty, but without it they would weaponize within six months. Do you really think that somebody that can weaponize in 6 months would decide to never pursue nuclear weapons in the future because President Obama asked them to swear off on it?

He also admits that Iran has been able to get around many of the current restrictions so that they can fund Hezbollah. That is not a problem. It just means that we need to up our game on blocking their egregious behavior concerning conventional weapons. Their misdeeds there have no bearing on their nuclear arms agreements.

He assures his audience that any infractions made by Iran will be quickly detected and sanctions will be reinstated. He does not mention that there are at least two side agreements that have not been released to Congress for review. Without having seen the documents, and there may be more that we do not know about yet, it is only guesswork on anybody’s part to know what we are signing.

Congressman Mike Pompeo (KS-04) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) put out a press release on July 17, 2015,

According to the IAEA, the Iran agreement negotiators, including the Obama administration, agreed that the IAEA and Iran would forge separate arrangements to govern the inspection of the Parchin military complex – one of the most secretive military facilities in Iran – and how Iran would satisfy the IAEA’s outstanding questions regarding past weaponization work. Both arrangements will not be vetted by any organization other than Iran and the IAEA, and will not be released even to the nations that negotiated the JCPOA. This means that the secret arrangements have not been released for public scrutiny and have not been submitted to Congress as part of its legislatively mandated review of the Iran deal.

Then on July 23, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Robert Menendez (D, NJ) asked:

“Is it true that the Iranians are going to be able to take the samples, as Senator Risch said? Because chain of custody means nothing if at the very beginning what you’re given is chosen and derived by the perpetrator.”

Kerry: “As you know, senator, that is a classified component of this that is supposed to be discussed in a classified session. We’re perfectly prepared to fully brief you in a classified session with respect to what will happen. Secretary Moniz has had his team red-team that effort and he has made some additional add-ons to where we are. But it’s part of a confidential agreement between the IAEA and Iran as to how they do it. The IAEA has said they are satisfied that they will be able to do this in a way that does not compromise their needs and that adequately gives them answers that they need. We’ve been briefed on it, and I’d be happy to brief you.”

Menendez: “My time is up. If that is true, it would be the equivalent of the fox guarding the chicken coop.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R, TX) introduced a Senate resolution emphasizing that the 60-day review of the Iran deal cannot officially begin until the side deals are provided to Congress.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 mandates that the 60-day congressional review period cannot begin until the nuclear agreement with Iran, and all related materials outlined in the Act, are transmitted to Congress,” a press release from his office notes. “President Obama has failed to provide separate side agreements and federal guidance materials to Congress, so the review period cannot have begun without the majority leader’s consent.

In closing, I will go back to the president’s most pitiful bid for legitimacy with his followers. “As a consequence, if we reject this deal we negotiated, and 90% of scientists and ambassadors (GOP and Dem), and experts in Iranian regime – if those folks (allies and friends), my Secretary of Energy is a nuclear expert from MIT – if Congress for political reasons reject this deal — we’ll find ourselves having to engage in military action or isolated from the rest of the world with no credibility to negotiate on any international agreement.” (my notes and a friend’s notes)

I almost burst out laughing on the phone call when the president of the United States interrupted his argument to build up his Secretary of Energy by saying he is a nuclear expert from MIT!!! If I doubted everything else he had told me, at least I could know that Secretary Moniz is bonafide! That was right up there with having Jack Black and Morgan Freeman use their political acumen to explain why I should trust Iran.

We are in serious trouble as a nation when this is the level of discourse applied to life and death decisions with nations that regularly vow their goal of destroying us.

Please do call your Senators and Congressman using your fierce, well financed, and relentless voice to demand that they do not vote for this very bad agreement.

Out on his ear?

In relatively breaking news, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina has filed a motion to vacate the House chair. Translation from wonkspeak: he wants to remove John Boehner as Speaker of the House. However, Meadows has couched his request in such a way that it has to go through committee, which essentially is a death sentence for the resolution. As he told the Washington Post:

What I’m hopeful for is this provided perhaps the impetus to have a discussion, a family discussion, where we can start talking about how we can make sure that every voice, every vote matters, and really about representing the American people. Ultimately what I want to is to make sure everyone is treated fairly.

So really this is not an effort to get rid of Boehner but to put him on notice? That won’t go too far. The time to get rid of John Boehner was in January, but there was no organization behind that effort. Short of him resigning as Speaker, we are stuck with him through 2016. Even if a majority of Republicans supported the effort, the Democrats probably won’t bite because John Boehner is probably the best Republican Speaker they can get, and there are a fair number of Republicans who will suck up to leadership.

America really needs a do-over in 2016. If there were ever a time for the “throw the bums out” mentality, it would be right now. Tough-talking complete outsider Donald Trump is light-years in front in GOP polling, and while it’s likely that lead will dissipate when people begin to pay attention it should be noted that early in the 2012 campaign, during the fall of 2011, those miffed at Washington were backing the outsider businessman in the person of Herman Cain. Like Trump talks tough on immigration, Cain made a lot of hay around his 9-9-9 tax program. Ugly rumors of an extramarital affair did Cain in, but we will need to wait to see what, if anything given his celebrity, can be dug up on the Donald.

I sense a mood of resignation from rank-and-file Republican regulars, though. In the back of our minds we figured this was how it would be despite getting the Senate back after an eight-year hiatus. There is always an excuse with this bunch, and even though people are weary of Barack Obama the press is not actively driving down his polling numbers as they did for George W. Bush – so there is the illusion that he is still popular. But well-liked presidents don’t lose over 80 Congressional seats during their tenure. (Bush lost 36 in 2006, but had gained 17 in the two preceding elections.)

I think the impression was that we would make Obama’s veto pen his most-used writing instrument, but once again we are being let down by a spineless leadership who quakes at the thought of being blamed for anything. News flash: you will be anyway so you may as well be guilty of what you are accused of.

No, we won’t see a Speaker of the House fall, but we will get more evidence the natives are restless.

The context for Jindal

We weren’t really paying a whole lot of attention in these parts, but today Bobby Jindal became what he hopes is the lucky 13th candidate to seek the Republican nomination for President. And it didn’t take long for our friends, the Democrat “hacktivists,” to take a few potshots in an e-mail titled “Bobby Jindal for president? Really?”:

Take a look at our Bobby Jindal primer:

  • He’s one of the least popular governors in the country: Under his failed leadership, nearly 1 in every 5 people in Louisiana lives in poverty.
  • He’s one of the architects of the scheme to turn Medicare into a voucher system.
  • He will say anything to please the Tea Party base, like denying climate science and championing extremists like the guy from Duck Dynasty.

Really, that’s all you’ve got? Granted, Jindal doesn’t have overwhelming approval numbers in Louisiana – earlier this year, he was polling in the 20s at home, but had significant positive ratings elsewhere. Jindal was popular enough to win 66% of the vote in his 2011 re-election campaign, though. It’s not unheard of for a governor to lose polling momentum in a second term as he had 50 percent approval two years ago. And if failed leadership involves cleaning up a corrupt state, I’ll take some in Maryland.

As for the poverty rate, it is roughly the same in Louisiana as it was in 2000. Under governors of both parties it has stayed around 20 percent, with the low point occurring under Jindal’s watch in 2010. In those terms it is not too distinct from its southern peers.

It’s worth noting that the same poll that had Jindal at 50 percent also polled on his decision not to expand Medicaid. And don’t let them fool you: nothing would happen to Medicare until 2024 at the earliest, and, as Paul Ryan explains, this is a program to allow more choice. We know the Democrat hacktivists think they know what’s best for us but I like having choices, thank you.

But I loved that last bullet point. I don’t believe the climate “science” either because there’s too much money at stake for those who parrot the government line to state otherwise; moreover, there are the inconvenient truths that the Earth has been warmer and cooler than it is today for extended periods before the industrial revolution. In short, we don’t have a damn thing to do with it but people want us to think so in order to tax and control us. Yet it’s working, so don’t tell anyone it’s a con.

And “that guy from Duck Dynasty” happens to be a pretty successful Louisiana-based businessman. You could be friends with worse people, like suspected child molesters. To the extent Phil Robertson is “extreme” is the extent he is God-fearing.

With all that, I’m starting to like Jindal a little more. Really. Let’s face it: the Democrats have nothing except the scandal-plagued Clinton family and the walking failure that is Barack Obama. They can’t even get Jim Webb on the same page.

So if you need a good laugh, just wait for the Democratic “hacktivists” to speak up. You’ll get one.

If at first you don’t succeed in Maryland, try somewhere else

June 14, 2015 · Posted in Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

There have been occasions in the recent past where I wrote about state efforts to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, or PCUCPA for short. Needless to say, the concept is one that’s dead on arrival in a Democratic-controlled General Assembly here in Maryland, and that’s been PCUCPA’s fate in its various incarnations over the last several years.

But its fate is far different in states where the unborn are valued as people having a right to life as guaranteed in our Declaration of Independence. As Casey Mattox notes at RedState, there are fourteen states which have their own version of the law, although the enforcement of three have been halted for various (and likely dubious) legal reasons. Better still, a PCUCPA passed the House last month (with opposition mainly provided by liberal Democrats) and awaits action in the Senate.

Obviously the road to passage will become a lot more difficult in the Senate; my suspicion is that the PCUCPA will be filibustered to death because all but one or two of the 45 Democrats there will vote against cloture. It may not even get to 55 votes given the tendency of a couple Republicans to be squishy on pro-life issues. And even if the five Democrats necessary to gain cloture see the light and vote that way – assuming all 55 Republicans get on board, of course – the hurdle would get a lot taller once Barack Obama vetoes the bill, as he certainly would.

However, the bill is also useful in the sense that it may encourage other states without the law – but where most of the Congressional delegation voted for PCUCPA – to try and enact their own versions of it. To me, this is where the battle is properly fought. I may not like the fact that Maryland is a far-left loony bin of a state, but if those people who live there wish to foul their own nest with immoral laws it’s just going to make me have to work a little harder to change hearts and minds. As a citizen therein, I have just as much claim to moral superiority as any of them do. While it may seem counter-intuitive, I don’t believe in Constitutional amendments banning abortion or establishing marriage as between one man and one woman at this time – however, I reserve the right to change my mind on this in the future. Once upon a time I was against term limits, too.

Yet even if you don’t believe life begins at conception, the action of taking the life of a fetus barely a week away from viability (the earliest known premature baby to survive gestated in less than 22 weeks) and proven through research to be capable of feeling pain should be obvious. At this point in the process it should be obvious to the woman carrying the child that she is pregnant.

On the other hand, I have no doubt that those who are militantly pro-abortion are all for abortion up to and including the trip through the birth canal. (In extreme cases, the right doesn’t even stop at birth.) This is the “choice” some would have us believe is a viable option.

The other reason PCUCPA won’t get through Congress is the reason Mattox touched upon – the Left is very afraid that taking a case against PCUCPA would result in the Supreme Court revisiting Roe v. Wade and vacating their previously ill-considered decision – no more ersatz “right to privacy” and restoration of the states’ rights to choose their own path. As slowly as the wheels of justice turn, it may be a case heard under the next administration so it will be interesting to see if any SCOTUS changes play out during the 2016 campaign.

An assessment of the current situation

By Cathy Keim and Michael Swartz

Here is a question for our loyal readers: Now that it is mid-May, do you think that the GOP elites in Washington, D.C. have fulfilled their campaign pledges to stop President Obama’s fundamental change of our country?

Michael and I have voted no on that question and to make our point we have signed the Open Letter to Congress: Interim Assessment from the Citizens’ Mandate. (Our signatures are on page 5.)

I wrote about the original Citizens’ Mandate on monoblogue back in February. After working hard on the 2014 elections, many of us felt great relief when the GOP won by a landslide. That feeling was quickly replaced by a sense of betrayal with the passage of the CRomnibus budget and the retaining of John Boehner as Speaker of the House. The Citizens’ Mandate was a call to the GOP leadership to remember their campaign promises and to fulfill their obligations to their voters.

Instead, as the organizers of the mandate stated:

Contrary to the Republicans’ self-assessment of their first 100 days… more than 100 conservative leaders, in only 72 hours of signature collection, have given the Republican Congress a poor assessment on the members’ performance in their first 132 days in control of the legislative branch.

Among the actions by the GOP Cathy and I disagreed with, they:

  • Funded executive amnesty;
  • Continued Obamacare;
  • Jeopardized national security (by not addressing illegal immigration);
  • Ceded away treaty power on a nuke deal with Iran;
  • Continued excessive federal spending;
  • Undermined faith-based agenda;
  • Helped Obama (by confirming Loretta Lynch as Attorney General);
  • Continued federal education;
  • Punished conservative champions (through changing committee assignments), and;
  • Neglected congressional oversight.

While Congress is doing some things right, there’s a tremendous amount of untapped potential we are missing out on. It’s a reason that other vocal critics such as Richard and Susan Falknor of Blue Ridge Forum, Carroll County GOP Central Committee member Kathy Fuller, and former Delegate Michael Smigiel (who is running for Congress against the incumbent Andy Harris), and conservative commentator Dan Bongino have signed on. Bongino was quoted in the release, noting:

It’s way past time to reinvigorate our party and set forth a set of guiding principles. For too long we’ve been lost in partisan games while forgetting that, in the end, it’s the ideas that will take us to a better tomorrow.

Some may argue that Barack Obama received his electoral mandate in 2012, but it’s just as valid (if not moreso) to make the point that a course correction had become necessary and the results showed the message was sent emphatically in 2014.

Our call is for Congress to translate that message in legislation and oversight. Certainly there’s the prospect of veto after veto, but rather than get the reputation as a “do-nothing Congress” put the onus on the President to respond and – whatever you do – don’t cede any more power to the Executive Branch. We don’t want to have to sign an updated letter in the fall, so get busy.

Carson, Carly, and Huckabee – oh my…

By this time tomorrow, the GOP presidential field will be three aspirants larger than it was over the weekend.

Dr. Ben Carson and former HP head Carly Fiorina formally made it official today, while 2008 candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is expected to throw his hat back in the ring tomorrow. So what does that mean for the field at large?

We’ve known Carson was going to run for several months, and though there’s some local sentiment which wishes he would instead pursue the Republican nomination for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat currently held by the retiring Barb Mikulski, a run for the Oval Office has been on Carson’s radar ever since he first attracted notice at the National Prayer Breakfast a couple years ago. Anyway, his run is already priced into the market, so to speak, so the Carson cadre will continue supporting their candidate as he holds the “outsider” position in the race.

In 2008 and 2012, those who believed a businessman should be the one to run the country needed to look no further than Mitt Romney. While he’s not running in 2016, there is another business executive who is (and at this point, his name is not Donald Trump.) Carly Fiorina also makes the case that the best way to combat Hillary Clinton is to nominate a female to run against her.

This is a legitimate argument, but the question is whether it’s compelling enough to give her any traction in the race. Fiorina’s lone political experience was losing a Senate race in California, and while losing a race in a tough state doesn’t disqualify her, it brings up whether she can win.

And then we have Mike Huckabee, who I actually voted for in 2008 as the last somewhat conservative alternative standing to John McCain. Yet there must be a sense out there that the world has passed him by, and the conventional wisdom is that he fights for the same social conservative voters that gravitate to Ted Cruz. Granted, the one thing he has that Cruz does not is executive experience but I suspect more than a few people think of Huckabee more as a huckster than a politician, given his seven years away from the active political stage.

As it stands, I think the second tier is filling out nicely. But like American Pharaoh needed seventeen other horses to run against to earn the roses at the Kentucky Derby, the front-runners Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Cruz, and Marco Rubio need a field to sharpen their campaigns. Then again, one in awhile the longshot wins and several Presidential nominees were thought to have no shot at victory in the early stages of their campaign. That description fits this guy named Obama in 2007, but let’s hope the 2016 version can undo all his damage and then some.

The Corker bill: another major sellout by our GOP elites

April 21, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, Senator Watch, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

By Cathy Keim

The repetitive nature of our GOP leadership is wearing thin. Once again they are setting up a situation where they will pretend to try very hard to stop the very thing that they are in fact enabling.

The president is pushing hard for a terrible agreement with Iran. Senator Tom Cotton and 46 of his colleagues published an open letter to Iran explaining that the president could not bind the USA to an agreement with the consent of Congress.

Andy McCarthy presents the situation:

Thus, the Constitution mandates that no international agreement can be binding unless it achieves either of two forms of congressional endorsement: a) super-majority approval by two-thirds of the Senate (i.e., 67 aye votes), or b) enactment through the normal legislative process, meaning passage by both chambers under their burdensome rules, then signature by the president.

This put the GOP leadership in a bind. They do not want to constrain the president for unknown reasons, but they do want to appear to their constituents back home like they are trying.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Senators Robert Menendez (a Democrat) and fellow Republican Lindsay Graham submitted a bill that will solve this impasse for the GOP elites.

The fact that the Democrats, including Maryland’s Ben Cardin, are jumping on board with the Corker bill is evidence that something is very wrong. As Politico notes:

The low-key Cardin engaged in a furious round of negotiations with gregarious Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, prompting something that was once viewed as almost unthinkable: a bipartisan deal for Congress to review an Iran nuclear deal — with the blessing of President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

This bill looks tough because it forces the president to submit his Iran agreement to the senate, but as McCarthy adds:

Once the deal is submitted, Congress would have 60 days (or perhaps as few as 30 days) to act. If within that period both houses of Congress failed to enact a resolution of disapproval, the agreement would be deemed legally binding — meaning that the sanctions the Iranian regime is chafing under would be lifted. As Corker, other Republican leaders, and the president well know, passage of a resolution of disapproval — even if assured in the House with its commanding Republican majority — could be blocked by the familiar, lockstep parliamentary maneuvering of just 40 Senate Democrats. More significantly, even if enacted in the Senate, the resolution would be vetoed by Obama. As with the resolutions of disapproval on debt increases, it is nearly inconceivable that Obama’s veto would be overridden.

Instead of the president needing 67 senators to approve his Iran deal, now the Senate will need 67 votes to block the deal.

What? Why would the senators subvert the Constitution, turn the process upside down, and virtually ensure that they cannot block whatever the president presents?

This is the same old story of the leadership voting yes to let the bill out of committee so that they can futilely vote no on the floor. What they could kill in committee, they willfully let advance and then make a big show of voting no to their constituents back home. The details are different, but the story is the same.

Do not be taken in by this craven show of weakness by the GOP leadership hidden by a pose of strength. We have been sold down the river once again.

A few convention thoughts

For those who don’t know, the Maryland Republican Party had its convention “downy ocean” on Friday and Saturday.

They certainly can go upscale now that we occupy the governor’s office.

Doesn’t seem that long ago we couldn’t scrape up convention sponsors, let alone “Governor’s Circle” or “Chairman’s Circle.”

Since I didn’t have a proxy, nor could I attend anyway because I had work to do for a new employer, I decided to do the Friday night drop-in. To allocate a couple lines from an old Bob Seger song: “I headed east because I felt the change would do me good – see some old friends, good for the soul.”

Unfortunately, poolside at the Princess Royale isn’t great for photos. But truth be told, I wasn’t much into documenting the night anyway. I was having too much fun chatting up folks like my old “partner in crime” Heather Olsen, being a radio guest for Ryan Miner, and talking shop with some others. I did take a few various shots with the cell phone, but they don’t rise to the level of worth commenting on because most are dark or somewhat tiresome.

But I did receive some flak from on high about the piece I wrote Friday, being scolded because I didn’t know the whole story. Yet this bears one question: what would Joe Burns – or those four members of the Carroll County RCC who opposed the change to submitting multiple names – gain from lying or embellishing the truth? Conversely, if they are right, what does the “good old boy establishment” wing of the MDGOP lose? The ability for cronyism at will?

There’s no doubt that Joe’s idea of a properly working MDGOP is different than that of the leadership, and it’s probably a far cry than mine. But it’s my understanding that Diana Waterman chose to address this at the very end of the convention, after the expected move by the Resolutions Committee to not report any resolutions out. Been there, done that. As always, we have plenty of time for rehashes of what’s going on with the various party leaders, but not enough time to put some simmering issues to rest. I’d love to have some input from those on Resolutions to know why nothing made the cut.

Going forward, though, this is something which needs clarity. Either we allow the governor to have his way simply because he has an “R” behind his name or we have consistency in rules. After all, there was no do-over on any of the other General Assembly nominees.

One other thought I had, thanks to the presence of Don Murphy, was his belief that “you must be present to win.” Where was everyone who is considering a 2016 U.S. Senate bid? Besides Andy Harris, who had a hospitality suite upstairs, away from the pool, I wasn’t aware anyone else hosted a suite. Perhaps they were on the downlow, but now that session is over you would think we would have some movement. We already know a couple of the players lined up on the other side.

From what I heard, the party will be back in Annapolis Solomons this fall so I’m sure all those Senate hopefuls will be out of the woodwork by then – along with the umpteen GOP presidential hopefuls (more specifically, their Maryland proxies.) Hopefully we can be arguing over the merits of Dan Bongino vs. Andy Harris vs. Laura Neuman for Senate and all those who wish to clean up Barack Obama’s disaster because we will have some resolution and direction on the subjects currently at hand.

And who knows? I might just get a proxy for that one, or I might not. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon for all but two things: working (which is what I did) or arguing politics. I only missed it a little bit, which isn’t bad considering.

It might be a good idea this fall, though, to bump the Resolutions Committee report to the front of the agenda – and bring some popcorn.

The basket of (rotten) eggs

April 15, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

It looks to me like the Democratic National Committee has lost all pretense of objectivity and fairness in their most recent advertising campaign, for their latest e-mail (and yes I’m on the list because most of their e-mails are comedy gold) puts them squarely in the tank for one candidate:

I don’t recall seeing this when Jim Webb formed his exploratory committee and I’m suspecting a similar message won’t be splashed all over my inbox when Martin O’Malley makes it official. The powers that be in the Democrat party are, for better or worse, hitching their wagons to the colossal failure that is Hillary Clinton.

On the other hand, the Republicans now have the advantage of focusing on one target, don’t they? Interestingly enough, the e-mail graphically depicts five of the presumptive frontrunners for the GOP nomination (Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio) as “guys…ready to do whatever they can to make sure a Democrat isn’t the 45th President of the United States.” Well, damn, I would hope so. I know a Democrat as the 45th president (or 46th, 47th, or so forth) isn’t my personal preference!

Yet the fact that she’s almost the candidate by default may be her undoing in the end. Say what you will about Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign, but I think the fact his nomination wasn’t handed to him made him a better candidate. It was the reverse of 2000 and 2004, when Al Gore and John Kerry had relatively brief and easy campaigns. And while conventional wisdom and the party establishment would likely prefer a bloodless nomination campaign, the potential is there for a summer of campaigning as a couple GOP candidates jockey for the brass ring. The idea that they can focus on Hillary while she doesn’t have the advantage of knowing just who her opponent might be could start swinging some votes.

It’s a classic case of putting all their eggs in one basket. Just wait until it falls.

Taking the queen

The news cycle today was dominated by the reports that Hillary Clinton would make her 2016 plans official on Sunday – and she would be doing it via social media and in small groups because she’s oh-so-hip.

Yet there are a number of people out there who are afraid Democrats would have buyer’s remorse if Hillary is the nominee. A handful are coalescing around Martin O’Malley because of his experience as governor, but another former governor who can also boast of a term in the Senate is entering the race now as well. Is it blood in the water?

Perhaps not, but former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee promises “fresh ideas for America” as the second Republican-turned-Democrat to run in this cycle after onetime Virginia Senator Jim Webb entered late last year. Of course, these “fresh ideas” are typical liberal bromides but nonetheless Chafee is playing the populist card in an effort to attract those who aren’t ready for Hillary. As opposed to Webb, who is a former Republican running to the center, Chafee is going more to the left of Hillary, but based on the approval ratings he had during his lone term as governor of the Ocean State and the fact his chosen successor didn’t even make it through the primary it makes Martin O’Malley look like a political genius – and that is damn hard to do.

Yet it makes a great point. If you look at the contenders who have entered (or are likely to enter) the GOP race, you have a vast selection of current and former governors, members of the United States Senate, and even a private citizen or two. There could be upwards of 15 serious aspirants who bring some sort of unique experience to the table.

On the other hand, so far the Democratic slate may include a former First Lady who was a failure as a Cabinet secretary and undistinguished one-plus term Senator, a gaffe-prone vice president and two-time failure in the Presidential race (who was also caught plagiarizing material). a pair of governors who couldn’t even get their anointed successors elected, a one-term Senator who got tired of the job, an avowed Socialist, and Fauxcahontas. Yeah, that’s a real set of winners. And the average age of this group is 66, with O’Malley serving the useful purpose of dragging it down by a couple years since he’s only 52.

Nobody really likes Hillary. Eight years ago most people figured she would be the first woman president and we would have a Presidential history lineage which went Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. Instead, some semi-obscure Senator named Barack Obama promised a fundamental transformation of America and we got it. (We didn’t necessarily like it, but that’s another well-documented story.)

It’s also worth noting that the 2006 elections, which saw the GOP lose its majorities in both houses of Congress, were seen as a precursor to 2008 where Barack Obama won. The TEA Party wave of 2010 didn’t quite reach the White House in 2012 – in part because Mitt Romney was seen by some conservatives as uninspiring – but the presidency is an open seat once again in 2016 and the 2014 results returned the GOP to control of Congress.

Some Democrats probably feel Hillary is the best, last hope to regain the prosperity many enjoyed during the Bill Clinton years. But we are almost a generation removed from his tenure and much has happened in the interim – 9/11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an economic meltdown, and a division in politics rarely seen since the days before the War Between the States. If you compare that to the first 16 years removed from Ronald Reagan, the conditions back then were much more placid – the fall of the Soviet Union, a minor recession, a quick Gulf war, and then worries about scandals culminating in one involving a blue dress. Until 9/11 that was our real news story. From Bush to Bush was easy compared to the longer potential timeframe from Clinton to Clinton.

For all those reasons, Hillary may be the most vulnerable fait accompli candidate in recent memory, and I don’t think Chafee’s entry will be the last dark horse.

Is the era of full employment over?

Simply put, March was not a good month for job creation around the country. Numbers were down markedly from previous months while, as the Americans for Limited Government advocacy group pointed out, the labor participation rate tied a 37-year low.

The news was even worse in the manufacturing sector, where it contracted by 1,000 jobs. While Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing blamed the strong dollar, calling it “a big loser for factory jobs in the United States,” it’s only a piece of the puzzle.

Paul would favor a more interventionist solution, adding:

There’s plenty that could be done to turn this around. The Treasury should crack down on currency manipulators, the Federal Reserve shouldn’t act prematurely, USTR should be assertive about enforcing our trade laws, and Congress must address currency and trade enforcement in the context of new trade legislation.

Based on Barack Obama’s promise to create a million manufacturing jobs in his second term, he needs to add 628,000 in the next 21 months – a Herculean task for any president, and almost impossible for this one. Let’s consider a few facts:

First of all, the continued low price of both oil and natural gas has tempered the energy boom to some extent. According to Energy Information Administration data, the number of oil and natural gas rigs in operation last week was 1,048. In terms of oil operations, the number is down 45% from last year and for gas it’s down almost 27%. While gasoline in the low $2 range is good for the overall economy, oil prices need to be between $60 and $80 a barrel for operators to break even, and the benchmark price has held lately in the high $40s.

As I noted, low energy prices are good for some aspects of job creation, but the energy boom is on a bit of a hiatus and that affects manufacturing with regard to that infrastructure. Throw in the unfair competition we’re receiving when it comes to OCTG pipe and it doesn’t appear this will be the cure to what ails us as far as job creation goes.

More important, though, is the financial aspect. Our corporate tax structure is among the most punitive in the developed world, which leads to capital flowing offshore despite the “economic patriotism” appeals of our government to demand it come back. Once you have the opportunity to take advantage of other countries’ willingness to charge 20% or even 15% tax, why should you willingly pay a 35% rate? Their slice of the pie may be less, but they get a lot more pies this way.

And then we have the aspect of regulations, particularly when it comes to the financial restrictions that Dodd-Frank places on the lending industry and the environmental mandates an overzealous EPA is putting on industry – look at coal as an example. If we went back to the conditions of 2006 the environment would likely not suffer serious harm and companies would have a much easier time with their accounting. I haven’t even touched on Obamacare, either.

Not all of this is Obama’s fault, but the majority of these problems can be laid at his feet. Alas, we have 21 months left in his term so many of these things will not change despite the presence of a Republican Congress which will be blamed for any setbacks.

So the question becomes one of just how many employers in general, not just in manufacturing, will be able to weather this storm. Even the recent news that both Walmart and McDonalds will be increasing their wages brought out the cynics and doubters. But it’s worth pointing out that both Walmart and McDonalds have stated they wouldn’t oppose a minimum wage hike. Such a move makes sense for them because their bottom lines can more easily manage a modest wage hike for their employees and they know their local competitors can’t. Both also have the flexibility to adopt more automation where they used to have a row of low-wage employees. As an example, most of the local Walmarts adopted a number of self-serve checkout lanes over the last year or so. If you hire a dozen fewer cashiers it’s easier to give the others another dollar an hour.

Change is a constant in the labor market, and we know this. But there are some circumstances under which businesses thrive and others where they struggle, and history has gone long enough to suggest the broad outlines we should follow. It’s unfortunate that some want to blaze a new trail when we know where the correct path is.

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    Maryland Primary Election will be April 26, 2016.

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