Some thoughts at large:
Is it just my imagination, or have the last 20 years simply escalated the tension in this country between political factions?
Once we were told that politics and religion were two subjects that really weren’t suited for dinner table conversation. In days of old, I’m sure the women who used to trade gossip over the back fence as they hung the laundry out to dry and the guys who bowled together on Tuesday nights couldn’t care less about who their neighbors and teammates voted for because they had so much more in common than they did differences. Conversations were more about how to best ward off the Fuller Brush man coming to the door or needing to throw two strikes and count on the fill shot in the tenth frame to win the series and avoid having to buy the final round, not whether the President needs to be impeached for some real or imagined slight.
Fast forward a few decades and now people are selective with their friends and associates, preferring to be in their own information silo. Needless to say, that information silo exists because we’ve come to a point where people consume their news and information almost exclusively from sources they believe are true, and that element of truth comes from being aligned with their worldview. If you had one belief style, you would believe that Ronald Reagan was a dunce whose best acting job was becoming President, the Bushes came from a crooked, out-of-touch family dynasty, Bill Clinton was hounded by overzealous prosecutors and everything against him was just about sex, and Barack Obama was the best thing since sliced bread because he gave us health care. On the other hand, you could also be convinced that Reagan was worthy of sainthood, the Bushes were a true American family dedicated to public service, Bill Clinton was a crook who got away with murder, and Barack Obama was a communist plant who was really born in Kenya. There doesn’t seem to be much of an in-between, and people were made even more passionate by the Trump-Clinton election of 2016.
So now everyone has to be on a side, or you will be assigned to one. If you were #NeverTrump, you had to be a Hillary Clinton supporter. If you think climate change is real but mankind has nothing to do with it, you are still a “denier.” And so on and so forth through a host of political topics and issues – it’s my red team or blue team, wrong or right.
If you have been here since the beginning or known me for any length of time, you know that I’m not a completely neutral observer, although I try hard to be objective as a reporter. I have a set of beliefs and I defend them; however, I’ve been working more on stepping out of the information silo because the research will make for a more interesting book when I finally finish it. When discussing the TEA Party, there is the perspective from conservative media (it was a grassroots movement), the liberal spin (Astroturf set up because a bunch of racists hated a black President), and the truth (they were mainly people who were truly scared about their future and didn’t want the government taking so much money, power, and control.) Such a movement will attract a handful of true racists but really attracts the charlatans trying to make a score via the political topic of the day. I say this about just one subject, but there are myriad others with the same sort of arguments on both sides.
Perhaps a reason I needed a break from politics and its associated idea that you have to be either on the red team or the blue team is the realization that the game is on a completely different field. We argue about how much influence Uncle Sam should have on paying for our health care when the argument should be regarding their involvement in general, for example. To speak to anything else is to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.
That being said, I’m glad that some people I know had a good time at CPAC this year, but I had no desire to go. They told me that getting out of politics would be liberating, but they didn’t say how much. It’s more fun to discuss issues and try to break through the silos on social media than to go cheer for one candidate or another.
I think it was said that if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Politics will make you a lot of friends, although when you leave you notice there are fewer. But taking a stand in this day and age will get you a lot of enemies, and I don’t think they ever forgive or forget. There are lots of reasons friendships break up, but isn’t being for a presidential candidate other than your own a pretty stupid one?
I observed on Facebook earlier today that eight years may seem like a long time, but on the other hand my wife and I have only known one administration as a couple: we met just two weeks after Barack Obama took office.
By that same token, today monoblogue moved into its third administration, as I began this enterprise in George W. Bush’s second term and somehow made it through eight years of Barack Obama. Obviously one may conclude that, being a conservative, I would have a lot less to complain about in a Republican administration – but something tells me this will be a Republican administration like no other.
In a lot of the analysis I’ve read about why and how Donald Trump came to the place of being sworn in today as our 45th president, the quick take is that he did it much like Ronald Reagan did: he appealed directly to the people and was effective enough at working around the filter of the media that he succeeded where Mitt Romney, John McCain, Bob Dole, and the two Bushes had failed – and yes, I am aware that George W. Bush was president for eight years (and his dad for four.) But would you consider them successful presidents? I’m not sure that I would. On the other hand, Reagan is fondly remembered by most of America except the hardcore Left.
It’s no secret that I didn’t vote for Trump in either the primary or general elections, and my approach to him at this point is one of a fairly wary optimism. In all honesty, that’s based more on the public perception that things are turning around for the better than any evidence I have that his policies will show us the way to make America great again. (I will say, though, that what I wrote about in today’s Patriot Post did tug the rope slightly more in his favor. But I have to see follow-through.) Yet one thing Reagan had in his favor was his sunny optimism that it was morning again in America, and many of my more conservative friends invoked that sentiment in discussing today’s events. (Of course, those few left-leaning friends of mine will likely feel like the old Li’l Abner character Joe Btfsplk with the black cloud perpetually over his head for the next four to eight years.)
Yet I share in the optimism, if only because my circumstances are improved from the last time around. When 43 became 44, I was out of work – however, I was warned that if Obama was elected our business may be in for a rough ride. He was elected and I was let go a month later. Needless to say, it wasn’t really my mood to give him a chance because I could sense Obama was bad news for America based on the policies he wished to put in place. And I believe I was correct in that assessment because I’m not better off than I was eight years ago, at least in an economic sense. If Obama was a progressive, we desperately need a regressive as far back as the Constitution will let us go. Unfortunately, Trump’s not that guy and the one I thought would be got 200,000 votes nationwide.
In that time, though, I’ve become more convinced that we are under the control of a higher power anyway. If it is His will that America survives, it will indeed do so – if not, I leave my fate up to Him. I’ve been blessed to spend 52 years here in this God-blessed nation, which is something that few who walked on this planet ever got and likely much more than I as a sinner who falls short of the glory of God deserves. So I sort of get this sneaking hunch that the reason I was given the talent I have and placed where I was is to try and preserve the blessing – thus, I will remain on that side of the equation regardless of who is president.
So good luck to President Trump and Vice-President Pence, and best retirement wishes for the Obamas and Bidens. Enjoy being private citizens again. As for me, it doesn’t matter who is president because I am writing for a different reason.
When all the ballots were counted, Donald Trump amassed about 44% of the total Republican vote in the 2016 primaries. Granted, that total surely includes some Democratic crossover votes in open primary states – so we can’t discount a successful Operation Chaos in reverse by the Democrats – but considering there were 6 to 10 contenders in play at the time many states voted that’s a fair amount of support.
But the guy who wrote about the art of the deal seems to be having a tough time closing the sale with the GOP. In a CNN/ORC International poll released today, there are 48% of Republicans who would like a do-over in this election cycle. (Page 18 of the poll.) Granted, Democrats are not completely thrilled with Hillary Clinton because only 55% back her with 43% still wishing for Bernie Sanders. (There is no alternative to Trump given for the GOP.) If it’s not obvious by now, I’m one of those 48% who think we can do a lot better.
Obviously the path to that is one of allowing convention delegates to vote their conscience at the RNC convention next month. There are a number of renegades who will do just that, but the question is whether they would be enough to make a difference and whether they could even open up the balloting. The only alternative candidate who could be nominated as the rules stand now is Ted Cruz, who would need to restart his campaign that was mothballed in May after the Indiana primary. (But Cruz would have more cash on hand than Trump has now, and his mainly inactive campaign pulled in almost as much in May as Trump’s did.)
Yet the 48% of Republicans who don’t care much for Trump must be the ones not donating money to him, putting the GOP in a financial position it didn’t think was possible given the political climate and eight years of a stalled economy and spotty foreign policy. The trend over the last sixty years has been eight years of one party controlling of the White House before yielding to the other side, with the only deviation being the first term of Ronald Reagan giving the GOP an “extra” four years from 1981-85. (The second term of Reagan plus George H.W. Bush were the “natural” years in this cyclical pattern, which resumed with Bill Clinton.) So the Republicans would be in the position of thinking it was their turn on the merry-go-round.
A candidate that has been the “presumptive” nominee for several weeks running but only has the support of a small percentage that didn’t vote for him is perhaps a fatally flawed candidate. I’m sure many will blame the #NeverTrump movement for poisoning the well for The Donald as he tries to consolidate support, but it’s not up to us to earn the votes – that’s on the guy running. The other candidates on my ballot at least have some conservative credentials I can rely on as I give my support, but Trump is wrong on so many issues (or is right for about a day before backing off) that I think he will extinguish all the progress we’ve made since Ronald Reagan took office. Things eroded a lot during the Bush and Bush years but we would go the other way toward a more “yuge” and oppressive government regardless of who wins if we stay as Trump vs. Clinton. Whether it’s “our” authoritarian or not, the Executive Branch will gain power because we already know Congress isn’t doing much to stop the Obama agenda and it would be hamstrung by Trump’s excesses by his being a Republican. I didn’t sign up to be part of a dictatorship.
So I’m not standing alone in demanding a better alternative, and the movement grows daily.
The generation that fought World War II is considered by many modern pundits as our “greatest generation.” Those who were born in the 1920s were the ones who grew up with the adversity of the Great Depression and came of age as America was attacked at Pearl Harbor.
But the generation they spawned upon their return from the battlefields of Europe and war throughout the Pacific has made their own impact on the American culture, turning their collective noses up at an unpopular war in Vietnam and becoming the narcissistic subject of what was termed the “me” generation. In general terms, a Baby Boomer is one born between 1946 and 1964, although the peak of the boom occurred in 1957. It took a half-century before the total number of births in a calendar year eclipsed the total of 4.3 million we had in 1957.
Yet in the area of Presidential leadership the Baby Boomers are represented only by our last three Presidents, two of whom were born at the very beginning of that era in 1946. Together, however, they represent 24 years of our history as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have served two terms apiece. One can argue whether or not they’ve had a positive impact on the country, but with the propensity of our nation of late to elect a President twice, it’s likely that if we elect a President who was born during that 18 year span in 2016 he or she will be the last of that generation to hold office. The tail end of the Boomers will be 60 by the time that election occurs, but most of them will be older than 67.
I bring this up because this election has the potential to be the same generational shift as we had in 1992 when Bill Clinton (then 46 years old) defeated the incumbent George H.W. Bush (then 68 years of age) – albeit not to that extreme of a degree since Obama is only 54. And if you recall the 1980 election as I do, there was a great deal of concern about Ronald Reagan’s advanced age – at the time of his inauguration he was just a few weeks away from his 70th birthday. Previous to Reagan the oldest President to take office was William Henry Harrison, who was 68 – and died in office a month later. So I think people became a little gunshy about electing a man of advanced age.
If you look at the ages of the remaining contenders, you’ll notice that nearly half of them are already eligible for Social Security as they have passed their 62nd birthday. While the average age of the Republican contenders is 58, it’s worth noting that for the Democrats it’s nearly 65, with Martin O’Malley dragging the average out of the 70s. All three Democrats fall within the Baby Boomer range.
On the other hand, the top three Republican contenders are the two youngest in the group (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) trailing the oldest Republican running, Donald Trump. I had no idea Trump was the oldest until I looked it up but he is 69 now and would be 70 by inauguration day, making him the oldest President to take office. So where are the people concerned with his health and advanced age? (Hillary Clinton would be just a few months younger than Reagan was if she won, while Bernie Sanders would shatter the age record as he is already 74.)
While I identify more readily with the Generation X that followed the Boomers, by birth year I’m lumped in with them. By being a few years younger than the peak of our generation, those born in the early-to-mid 1960s like myself have always dealt with the hand-me-downs we received, and they were often worse for the wear. (Having a brother who was two years older this was literally true in my case.) So it is with America, which has seen the decline in morality brought to us by the Clintons, the questionable attempts at nation-building we tried under George W. Bush, and the trainwreck of “if you like your plan, you can keep it” Obamacare under its namesake. If you ask the question, “are you better off than you were 24 years ago?” the number of people who say no might be shockingly high.
Perhaps it’s time for the Boomers to leave the stage, but I’m sure they’ll have to dragged off kicking and screaming because it will always and forever be about them.
In the wake of comments many believed exposed Donald Trump as a religious bigot, there was condemnation on both sides. But what happens if he wins the Republican nomination in a deeply divided GOP? Maybe my fellow blogger and Central Committee member from Howard County Dave Wissing gives us a clue. He took to social media yesterday to state:
I usually keep my political posts to a minimum, but after today it has reached the point where I can’t stay quiet any longer. As a lifetime Republican who has always supported Republicans for President, I will not support Donald Trump for President should he get the Republican nomination and will work to defeat him. If this costs me my position on the Central Committee, so be it.
More in my party should be saying this.
I’m not going to look at this from the standpoint of whether what Trump said was right or wrong. Instead it brings up the question of whether members of the Central Committee are supposed to blindly follow the party, even if they nominate a person who would seemingly represent the worst possible face of the party.
In the past we have had discussions about something we dubbed the “David Duke rule,” named for the white supremacist who was successful enough to finish second in Louisiana’s 1991 gubernatorial “jungle” primary. Duke ran as a rump Republican against party-switching incumbent Buddy Roemer and former scandal-tainted governor Edwin Edwards, who eventually won a fourth non-consecutive term over Duke. Duke was shunned by practically every elected Republican in the country up to and including President George H.W. Bush, who backed the Democrat Edwards. While my philosophy is to trust the wisdom of the voters, sometimes circumstance forces you to turn your back on a candidate. For many, including Wissing, this seems to be the case with Trump.
Nor does every Central Committee have a loyalty clause.
In reviewing our county’s bylaws, making a statement like Wissing’s is not automatically grounds for removal. Instead, the only grounds for removal is that of missing meetings or conventions. Further, in our case, a 2/3 vote of the committee would be enough to not endorse Trump (or any other candidate) as far as our county is concerned. If Howard County’s rules are similar, those calling for Wissing’s resignation are out of order despite his proclamation.
Yet there is the average Trump supporter to consider. He or she tends to be the working class voter that Republicans constantly try to keep from defecting to the Democrat Party where they came from to vote first for Ronald Reagan. I know a few Trump supporters who like his tough-talking rhetoric, if not his record of political accomplishment, and they’re bound and determined to see him become President.
They can’t seem to move the Trump needle over 25 to 30 percent in the polls, though. There are still over a dozen candidates in the race, but eventually more will drop out and support will coalesce behind other challengers who may eventually replace Trump as the frontrunner. This may solve the immediate problem but create a second one – disheartened Trump supporters who stay home rather than vote for another Republican.
There is a piece in the Onion that satirically illustrates the perils of underestimating The Donald, though. Things that may sink another’s campaign seem to energize Trump supporters even more. The trick may be to interest them if Trump falls short.
On a Friday night in Alabama, it’s probably not unheard of to have 20,000 people in a football stadium. But the only game going on was a political one, for Donald Trump was holding a campaign event in Mobile.
Now think about this for a second. We are 14 1/2 months out from the Presidential election and five months out from the first votes being cast. But 20,000 people braved s sultry evening to hear a candidate talk tough on immigration because it is a key issue to voters like them. Indeed, there is the celebrity factor you won’t get with even a Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush because The Donald is a TV star. (It’s not like we haven’t had an actor as a President; only the medium would be different. “B” movies evolve to “reality” TV.)
There are candidates on the right and left, in Trump and Bernie Sanders, who seem to be drawing large crowds wherever they go. Trump is talking tough on immigration and foreign policy while Sanders is portraying a socialist nirvana paid for by soaking the rich with an exorbitant tax rate. Since 99% of the audience thinks they will get something for free, naturally they will be supportive.
Liberals would discount Trump’s appeal as blatant racism designed to appeal to Southern whites. “Of course he will draw 20,000 in Alabama,” they chortle knowingly, “since all that live there are mouth-breathing racists who won’t let go of their Confederate flags or Bibles.” Two to three times a week I get DNC e-mail sneering about the latest thing Trump said.
But there is something about a candidate who vows to “make America great again.” It seems the last time we were in such a state of malaise it was at the end of a Democratic administration which reigned in an era shortly after a military defeat. Granted, we don’t have the “misery index” of inflation and unemployment that plagued Jimmy Carter’s one and only term, but we don’t exactly feel like we’re in an economic boom, either. America, by and large, gets tired of a party in power after eight years – aside from the deviation of an “extra” Republican term because Ronald Reagan won in 1980 and was succeeded by his vice-president George H.W. Bush, we have gone over six decades in that pattern. Democrats are not as wildly popular as Ronald Reagan was, so odds are the pendulum will swing back in 2016.
And Donald Trump has survived every pitfall predicted. No one thought he could get a campaign off the ground at first, then it was decided by the conventional wisdom that his comments about John McCain would sink him. After that, it was the Fox debate and people were sure they had him when Megyn Kelly was bleeding from wherever. Perhaps Trump has more political lives than Morris the Cat, but it seems that no matter what epitaph the political class writes for him, the rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated.
To be quite honest, I tend to agree with Trump’s immigration stance. I’m sure it will be one of, if not the, highest score out there once I wrap up the immigration portion of my Dossier series.
Yet Trump is beginning a high-wire balancing act with his immigration proposal. On one side, he has to begin coming up with reasons to vote for him besides empty catch phrases, but on the other he needs to maintain the shoot-from-the-hip style that endears him to many voters among that 20,000 who showed up to watch him. If you replicated the same conditions in Salisbury, you might only get 5,000 – but that would be tenfold what any other candidate, including Sanders, would draw here.
I’m definitely not sold on Trump as the GOP standard bearer, and history is littered with candidates deemed “inevitable” a year out from the election who failed to win a single primary. America may get tired of Trump’s attitude and fire him from the GOP field, but there is that specter of a Perot-style run lurking. I was one of those disaffected Republicans who was so disappointed in the Bush 41 performance that I voted for Perot, and there were enough of us to swing the election the wrong way. Lesson learned.
I hope that I hear more from Trump on the important issues. Since he is all but a shoo-in for the next debate, maybe the questions won’t be the “gotcha” style ones employed by Fox. One can only hope, anyway.
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.
The Washington Times headline said a lot: “Jeb Bush: Federal wind tax credit should be renewed for short period of time.” But there’s more to the story if you read between the lines Seth McLaughlin wrote.
Of course, I noticed this because I’ve written quite a bit about wind energy and its advocates the American Wind Energy Association of late. Fortunately, the weather has finally moderated so I’m not writing in the midst of a cold snap as I’d often done when writing about the AWEA and their single-minded approach to promoting wind energy with the federal Wind Production Tax Credit as a sweetener incentive.
In this instance, though, you need to know the situation: Jeb and others were speaking before the Iowa Agricultural Summit, which as the Times notes is “hosted by Bruce L. Rastetter, a major GOP donor.” And it can be argued that Iowa is to wind power what Texas, North Dakota, or Alaska are to oil: according to the AWEA, in 2013 Iowa ranked first in the nation in the amount of its electricity produced by wind power at 27.4%. It also has the third-most installed capacity in the country behind Texas and California, which are far larger states in both population and geography.
So you might get the idea that telling Rastetter and others that the Wind Production Tax Credit should be renewed is a way to meet with their approval, even though Jeb conceded it should only be a three- to five-year extension because wind is “now competitive.” Wait a minute – if it’s “now competitive” why is the tax incentive needed again?
Naturally, the bad news on energy didn’t stop there. Iowa is also ground zero for the Corn Belt, which means anyone who competes in that state either supports ethanol subsidies or risks the wrath of farmers who don’t care whether their crop goes in your gas tank or your stomach as long as the price stays profitable. And Jeb had good news for them too, noting, “So at some point we will see a reduction of the RFS need because ethanol will be such a valuable part of the energy feedstock for our country. Whether that is in 2022 or sometime in the future, I don’t know.”
Ethanol will be a valuable part of our energy feedstock? We are now the world’s top producer of oil and natural gas, and those who set ethanol policy based on a belief that we were past the point of “peak oil” have been thoroughly discredited. It’s a horrible case of pandering when the news to Rastetter and others should have been that it’s time for farmers to adjust to a post-ethanol world as that failed experiment of making food into fuel is coming to a close.
Fortunately, it’s possible to win the presidency without winning Iowa. But it’s a state with outsized importance in the electoral sweepstakes thanks to its early caucuses, so we have to pay attention to what they want. (To illustrate this point: if Maryland were first, people would be tripping all over themselves to make grandiose promises to clean up Chesapeake Bay whether they benefitted – or bankrupted – the rest of the country or not.)
For all the Left’s wailing about the Bushes being in the pocket of Big Oil, they certainly haven’t done any favors to our energy situation. Father George H.W. Bush increased the gas tax by a nickel a gallon (a healthy 56% increase) to balance the budget back in 1990 – breaking his “read my lips” vow - while George W. Bush signed the bill that put the Renewable Fuel Standard in place in 2005 and expanded it in 2007. It looks to me like Jeb is cut from the same cloth.
When I heard the news Thursday that former South African president Nelson Mandela had died and then yesterday that Barack Obama was going to South Africa for this leader’s funeral with wife Michelle in tow, I was thinking that there was another former world leader’s funeral that he had recently missed. Breitbart reminded me of the details:
Interestingly, the Obamas did not got to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s funeral back in April of this year. In fact, no high ranking official from the administration was sent to the Iron Lady’s funeral.
For the Iron Lady, the official United States delegation included former Secretaries of State George Schulz and James Baker III; a month earlier a sitting and former member of Congress comprised part of the delegation sent to Venezuela for the funeral of strongman Hugo Chavez. So the actual visit of the Obamas for Mandela’s service is sort of a “big f—ing deal” and will require a much larger entourage.
So why is it suddenly so important that Obama go to South Africa? The cynical will make the case that Barack is America’s luckiest president – every time something he’s botched threatens his election or his approval rating, the world comes along and gives him something to grasp. For example, the Chris Christie embrace of Obama after Superstorm Sandy blunted whatever momentum Mitt Romney had just before the 2012 election.
Now the utter failure and unpopularity of Obamacare will be broomed from the headlines for a few days, with the timing of the Obamas’ trip to South Africa coinciding nicely with the start of his annual Hawaiian Christmas holiday. This will give him almost an extra week either out of Washington or preparing for one trip or the other. All this will give his brain trust a chance to figure out new ways to blame Republicans, which will be handy because a budget battle awaits Obama’s return from Hawaii.
Among the rest of us, the reaction to Mandela’s death has run the gamut, although those in the political realm have tended to be apologists or politicized the death. Personally, it didn’t affect me one way or the other, as Mandela was a leader of another time and his country isn’t really a leader on the world stage. Nor was it completely unexpected as he had been ill for several months.
But I just found the priority Barack Obama made in attending his funeral and flying our flags at half-staff in Mandela’s honor a little puzzling, considering some of the other deaths the world has seen lately.
Moreover, we may yet see the passings of former presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush – both of whom will turn 80 next year – and it will be interesting to see how they are honored by Barack Obama if this should happen during the remainder of Obama’s term.
As a means of getting back into things political after my weekend away, I found this chart – compiled by newly reinstalled Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley – quite instructive. It’s meant to be an ongoing narrative of the legal fight against 2013′s SB281, better known as the O’Malley gun law. (Some also refer to it as the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, but the only people who will be made safer by it are the criminals.)
As you can see, the good guys have been shut out so far, and to be perfectly honest I think that as long as this stays in Judge Catherine C. Blake’s courtroom the side of right will continue to be denied. Perhaps we’d have a better shot at the appellate level; unfortunately, the Fourth District Court of Appeals based out of Richmond is littered with Obama appointees, as 6 of the 15 jurists were appointed by our current chief executive. Conversely, just three judges remain from those appointed by George W. Bush; out of the other six there are four Clinton appointees and one holdover each from George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan – so the odds for a positive outcome aren’t exactly stacked in our favor. This despite the fact that Senate Bill 281 clearly infringes on our right to bear arms.
So it comes back to the decision on whether we should have put more effort into the referendum to stop SB281. Sadly, that ship sailed long ago and while I understand the track record for ballot issues on the conservative side isn’t very good, it should have been noted that the ballot issues which passed did so in a year where turnout was higher than would be the case in a gubernatorial election and no one named Obama will be on the ballot. In short, the electorate should trend more conservative in 2014.
Thus, it will be left to us to inflict the punishment as best we can on the party which sponsored and created the draconian measures. While seven Senate and seventeen House Democrats voted against the bill, they were mainly from districts deemed vulnerable by Democratic leadership so I’m betting they were given a pass to vote as if their jobs depended on it. Why have the faux conservatives when you can have the real thing?
If the right governor and enough members of the General Assembly are elected, the first bill out of the chute in 2015 might just be the one entitled “Firearm Safety Act of 2013 – Repeal.” That has a nice ring to it.
Ironically, another referendum effort gone awry is now winding its way into court as well. This came from MDPetitions.com last week:
If someone asked you whether or not you supported the US Constitution, would you say yes or no? Of course you would say yes! Hopefully, most Americans would say yes to that basic question.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened in November 2012. The Maryland government pulled a “bait and switch” trick on Maryland voters. An overwhelming majority of Marylanders voted to uphold the requirements of the US Constitution, not realizing that they were voting on a redistricting map that has made Maryland the laughing stock of the country. See here for references to quotes about how bad our districts are, even Comedy Central poked fun at our “ugly” districts.
How can people vote on the redistricting map, when they had no idea that that was what they were voting on? The hard-won voice of the people was snuffed out through trickery. That’s not right, and MDPetitions.com has been working hard for you to RESTORE YOUR RIGHT TO A FAIR REFERENDUM.
The illegal ballot language deprived Maryland voters of a fair opportunity to approve or reject the law/map, and therefore, justifies a re-vote on Maryland Question 5. MDPetitions.com and Judicial Watch believe that a re-vote on Question 5 with language that actually describes the situation is the only accurate and truthful way to govern our state.(Emphasis in original.)
I hate to say it, but it was MDPetitions’ decision to forgo a referendum on SB281 that got us into this gun law mess. The redistricting would have been more appropriate for a court case, but instead we got it to the ballot (barely) and the voters supported the redistricting – in part because of the language and the fact the map wasn’t shown on the ballot. All that a 2014 revote would do now is confuse the issue, although there is the chance we could elect a GOP governor who could draw things in a more logical manner.
On the whole, though, we really shouldn’t have to rely on the legal system to safeguard us.
If you are old enough to remember the 1992 election, you may recall that the usual two-player Presidential game had a party-crasher by the name of Ross Perot. Eventually after a few campaign fits and starts Perot got 19% of the national Presidential vote and allowed Bill Clinton to win with just 43 percent (incumbent George H.W. Bush received 38 percent.) Some say that the eventual result would not have changed even without Perot, and perhaps my little piece of anecdotal evidence bears that out – I voted Perot but had he not been there I would have held my nose and voted for Bush. On the other hand, I also talked my spouse at the time out of voting for Clinton and into Perot. (Or so she said.) Still, there’s a part of me which believes Bush may have hung on to beat Clinton if not for Ross Perot and the Reform Party. (Which, by the way, is trying to make a comeback in Maryland.)
So after writing on Friday about the recent Gonzales Maryland Poll (which posted yesterday) I saw a couple items on independent U.S. Senate candidate Rob Sobhani. This in particular piqued my interest.
“I hit the jackpot, I could have bought another house” Rob Sobhani today on why he decided today to run for the US Senate.
— Dan Bongino (@dbongino) September 29, 2012
Perhaps Mr. Sobhani has a unique sense of humor I don’t understand given his Iranian heritage and loyalty to it, or Dan Bongino took him out of context. But then there was another item I spied on my Facebook page and alluded to in my previous link that led me to do a little research on the political donations of one Rob Sobhani. I’ll get to that shortly.
Worthy of note in this context is that Sobhani has run for the Republican nomination for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat on two previous occasions – 1992, when he finished 5th out of a crowded 15-person field behind eventual GOP nominee Alan Keyes, and 2000, where he was runner-up to Paul Rappaport in an 8-way race.
Yet in his first FEC report on June 30, Sobhani recorded some typical expenditures. The timeline is as follows:
- On February 5, the campaign paid Sullivan and Associates for legal services. They were paid again in May.
- The Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies was paid $21,000 on March 10.
- Presumably the polls were agreeable, since Sobhani paid a total of $142,171 to both Savanna Communications and Arno Political Consultants for petition services from April through June.
- In addition he began a marketing campaign prominently featured on this website, at a cost of $1,800.
- Finally, he hired Igoe and Associates as a consultant on June 15.
With the possible exceptions of Sullivan and Associates and hy.ly, the firms Sobhani used are fairly reliable Republican backers. But that doesn’t add up with his pattern of personal political donations.
I went to Opensecrets.com and pulled up a lengthy file of Sobhani’s political giving over the last 22 years. During a 15-year stretch from 1991 to 2006, Sobhani donated a total of $9,400 to a group of candidates which were almost exclusively Republican, with the one exception running as an independent. He also gave a total of $9,340 to the state and national Republican parties. His last donation to a Republican was to Michael Steele in 2006, who ironically ran for the very Senate seat Sobhani is trying for now.
But after a five-year hiatus, Sobhani started giving again – to Democrats. First was Milad Pooran, who was an also-ran for the Sixth District nomination won by John Delaney. Pooran was endorsed by a number of leftists including Howard Dean and Keith Ellison, the lone Islamic member of Congress. Just before the June 30 deadline, Sobhani doubled down and donated $250 to Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, who represents the Memphis area. Most notably, Cohen sponsored a amendment reducing infrastructure funding in Afghanistan.
Perhaps it’s a way to burnish his independent credentials, but this seems quite curious for a guy who used to be a Republican to have gone so far to the left, at least in his political giving.
But rather than speculate on what his motives were, I wrote an e-mail to Rob and asked him a few questions point-blank:
- Since you have run for the Senate before in 1992 and 2000, what made you decide to run as an independent? Was it a case of not having confidence in the MDGOP banner or did the party move in a direction you were uncomfortable with?
- I noticed your last two political donations were to Democrats after a decade and a half of almost solid GOP giving? What was your rationale in doing so, given you have a message which is somewhat conservative?
I received Rob’s reply yesterday, which I am presenting in its entirety:
Thanks for your interest in my campaign. I am pleased by the support I have received so far and attribute it to the fact that my message resonates with many people in our state who are tired of politics as usual.
With regard to my decision to become an independent, I have lost my faith in both parties to fairly represent people’s needs today. Our economy is in trouble, and I see few solutions offered either by Republicans or Democrats. That is why I am trying something different. I think a lot of people share my thinking on this, let’s see as the campaign continues.
I have personally supported Republicans and Democrats in the past in cases where I believed the individual offered something important in the respective races. We should all be able to declare our independence in this state. Only by creating more jobs and getting our economy going again will we restore the quality of life we’d be proud to pass onto our children. At the end of the day, that is our duty, and it is more important than any party ideology.
I’m sorry Rob feels that way about the Republican Party, as I see it as the most viable vehicle to represent what the people truly want and need to have to prosper – freedom and liberty. And while he’s correct in assessing the fact our economy is in the dumper, the question of whether what he is proposing as a cure will work still needs to be explained a little more to me. Brian Griffiths at Red Maryland makes an interesting case that Sobhani should run for a different office in a post which could otherwise do well as a hit piece:
…to me, the role that Sobhani is suggesting he fill as a U.S. Senator is generally filled by a Governor. Because it is the Governor who is more directly responsible for creating economic development within the state. Furthermore, I sure as heck don’t want a U.S. Senator who thinks that his role is to go to Washington and send the bacon home to Maryland, no matter where the money is coming from.
But the statement Sobhani makes about adding to races is more telling, and perhaps explains well why he’s gone from staunch support of Republicans to backing Democrats. I’m not sure what Steve Cohen adds to his race since he’s in a D+23 district anyway, but Pooran shares Sobhani’s Iranian heritage.
Yet in order to have a chance to do as Rob says and “restore the quality of life we’d be proud to pass onto our children” it seems to me there should be a set of guiding principles involved. Rob oversimplifies this by saying on his campaign site that:
The parties are both locked into narrow ideological agendas that prevent them from talking to one another or working together for meaningful solutions. As an Independent, I’m not beholden to either political party. I hope to bring people of goodwill from both parties together.
One man’s “ideological agenda” is another’s principles, and among Republicans we should hold these truths to be self-evident and we should sell out our core beliefs to no one. NO ONE. There really is no middle ground between freedom and tyranny.
And don’t we have a President who promised to be “post-partisan?” That lasted about as long as it took for a Republican to show some backbone and be greeted by the President saying “I won.” Compromise, rather than fealty to the principles which made our nation strong, has placed us where we are now.
There is one other observation for me to make, and if Rob chooses to hold his cards close to the vest on this point I suppose I can understand. But it’s another question which should be asked.
Over the last few years in the Senate, there have been two independents: Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. While the are ostensibly unaffiliated, in reality both have caucused with the Democrats as Sanders is an avowed Socialist while Lieberman was once a Democratic vice-presidential nominee and won his seat in 2006 despite losing in the Democratic primary and re-entering the race as an independent.
So let’s say Sobhani defies the odds and pulls the upset. Will he caucus with the Republicans because that’s his traditional political home and the side from which he seems to be pulling more support, or will he caucus with the Democrats based on the fact his Senior Senator is in that caucus? Or will he wait and see other results so he can gravitate to the winning side? Imagine the scenario of Mitt Romney winning the White House but the Democrats controlling the Senate by a 50-49 margin – will he sell his position to the highest bidder like just another business deal?
At some point he’s going to have to choose.
It’s a shame, though, that it appears Dan Bongino doesn’t want to include Rob Sobhani in the debates (at least that’s how the AP story depicts it.) Let Rob’s voice be heard, and let him answer some tough questions. I’m sure I would have some more.
Ben Cardin’s been in office for 46 years, and Dan Bongino has been on the campaign trail for 16 months. If money can buy a Senate seat, I suppose we will find out from a guy who’s barely been at it for six months and only officially announced four weeks ago.
Update: Mark Newgent at Red Maryland has unearthed the pitch sheet Sobhani used to gather signatures. I didn’t know that Rob was ”pro-choice and supports gay rights,” did you? I’ll concede that, indeed, these issues are less important than fixing the economy (although Sobhani’s plan is dubious in itself – after all, wasn’t Solyndra a sort of public-private partnership?) but America is also better-served by those who believe in upholding traditional morals.
The other day I received a note from one Charles Faddis, who shared this announcement:
An affiliate of the Reform Party of the United States has been formally established in the State of Maryland. The Maryland Reform Party is now engaged in party building activities and focused on obtaining full ballot access. The Party also plans to begin to field candidates in local, state and federal elections.
The Reform Party of the United States is opposed to the partisan gridlock in Washington, DC, which is preventing us from finding real solutions to the critical problems facing our nation. It stands for limited government, reduced spending, high ethical standards, term limits, an end to ruinous nation building exercises abroad and the revision or nullification of one-sided “free trade” agreements, which have sent our jobs overseas and gutted our manufacturing base.
For those of you who are Millennials or have simply forgotten, the Reform Party entered the spotlight with the meteoric candidacy of billionaire H. Ross Perot in 1992. At one point in that campaign, Perot was polling ahead of both Bill Clinton and then-President George H.W. Bush. While an aborted withdrawal ended his realistic chance of winning, Perot still picked up 19 percent of the vote, including mine. I couldn’t vote for Clinton and didn’t like the direction Bush 41 took us; I read his lips.
Without Perot, who also ran for President in 1996 but failed to crack double-digits in the overall vote, the Reform Party struggled on for a time, in Maryland as they did nationally. While they have never had an official candidate for governor here in Maryland, the Reform Party had Pat Buchanan on the 2000 Presidential ballot (he finished fourth, behind Gore, Bush, and Libertarian Harry Browne) and had party registrants as late as 2003.
And when you look at the party platform, there is a libertarian streak to it. The only noticeable differences (and ones which might make it more appealing to disenchanted Republicans) are the term limits, seemingly isolationist foreign policy, and trade.
But given the hurdle that the Green Party and Libertarians only just cleared – the 10,000 valid signatures needed to be granted ballot space as a minor party in Maryland – the chances of them being on the ballot for 2014 are somewhat slim. They could certainly run candidates as unaffiliated with the Reform Party’s backing, but they would have no party listed and would have to petition their way onto the ballot, which can be done. (Rob Sobhani is a candidate for U.S. Senate who qualified via petition for this year’s election.)
We’ll see how the efforts to re-form the Reform Party go, but it will be a group competing with Libertarians and Republicans for the interests of the TEA Party voter set.