Turning the tide on Benghazi

By Cathy Keim

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of Cathy’s coverage of last weekend’s Turning the Tides Conference.

I was able to attend the Maryland Citizen Action Network Conference (better known as Turning the Tides) on January 8-9, 2016, in Annapolis, MD. I had missed the last couple of years due to schedule conflicts, so I was happy that I was able to go this year. I have always enjoyed the MDCAN conference and this year was no different.

Friday evening started out with a dinner and talk by Kris “Tanto” Paronto, one of the Benghazi 6. Kris walked us through the 13 hours of Benghazi. He kept our attention as he described the situation in Libya, his role as a Global Response Staff employee for the CIA providing security for personnel in austere environments, and the actions that he and his fellow team members took to save lives that night even though they were told to stand down by the CIA chief in Benghazi.

Kris, Mark “Oz” Geist, and John “Tig” Tiegen have gone public to bring attention to Benghazi. Mitchell Zuckoff wrote a book based on their account called 13 Hours – The Inside Account of What Really Happened at Benghazi. A movie based on the book, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” is being released on January 15. This trailer introduces the men behind the movie.

Kris, Mark, and John all worked with Mitchell Zuckoff and Michael Bay to be sure that the book and the movie were as accurate as possible. They acknowledge that turning 13 hours into a two hour movie would require some changes, Paranto added, but they were involved in checking the script and giving advice to be sure that the movie presented the facts.

I think that everybody was on the edge of their seat as Kris meandered through his story with amusing jokes that they bantered even during the attack. He testified to his faith in God more than once. All of the men were former special ops before they became private contractors, said Kris, adding that they would rotate in for two months and then out for two months because the environment was so stressful. All of the team were in their forties and Paranto felt that their experience is what enabled them to be successful that night. Lives were saved because they were able to work as a team, said Kris.

They have testified before Congress, but no answers have been forthcoming for why they did not receive back up. Debunking the official line, Paranto refuted the claim that there was absolutely no “protest about a video” prior to the attack. He encouraged us to continue pressing Congress for answers, because without answers nothing can be fixed to prevent this from happening again. Kris concluded by stating he is willing to die fighting, knowing that he hired on for a dangerous job, but he doesn’t like the story being distorted for political gain.

The focus on Benghazi continued on Saturday when the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi (CCB) gave an update on where things are at this time. A creation of the advocacy group Accuracy in Media, they state:

The purpose of the commission is to attempt to determine the truth and accuracy of what happened in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th, 2012, in reference to the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound, which resulted in the death of four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. Also, we will be looking at what led up to it, in the days, weeks and months that preceded the attack; and how it was dealt with by the Obama administration, the media and Congress in the aftermath of the tragic events of that day, which was the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. in 2001.

CCB member Lt. Col. Dennis Haney, USAF (Ret.) said that going to war in Libya was part of this administration’s plan to aid the Muslim Brotherhood in taking over North Africa. It allowed the flow of arms to go to groups in Libya.

Haney added that there are six hundred emails that were sent asking for more security, including 100 emails specifically talking about Benghazi. There were specific strategical and tactical warnings prior to the attack about the Feb. 17th Martyrs Brigade, the militia hired to protect the ambassador.

The CCB is looking at dereliction of duty by our government for not using our military to respond to the attack. The government’s response that they didn’t have time and that we don’t send people in if we don’t have intel is all dismissed by the CCB as being a lie.

Further, we learned the cover up by this administration and the media complicity is all being reviewed. An example of the media complicity, said Haney, is Candy Crowley’s comments in the CNN Presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, which were clearly prepared to skew the debate.

The CCB was pleased to see Rep. Trey Gowdy chosen to lead the House Select Committee on Benghazi, but with its lack of progress in getting answers now they are beginning to wonder if the Select Committee was compromised from the beginning. Something might still come of the House Select Committee, but hope is fading, said Haney.

On the other hand, they are encouraged that the movie being released this week will bring attention back to Benghazi. They would like to see people pressing Gowdy’s committee for answers to the questions surrounding Benghazi.

The Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi, the release of the movie “13 Hours,” and the numerous interviews that the Kris Paronto, John Tiegen, and Mark Geist are giving all help to refocus attention on Benghazi.

It should be noted that “13 Hours” opens this Thursday, and it will be playing here at the Regal Cinema in Salisbury. Take some friends and go see it, knowing that it is depicting the real story.

Update: A friend just sent me these videos from Sharyl Attkisson stating that an email has been found showing that rescue teams were responding and were stopped. This is particularly incriminating information for the administration since it shows that help could have arrived before the last two Americans were killed in the Benghazi attack.

About that TEA Party…

My “10 from 10″ post this morning regarding the 9/12 Rally back in 2009 got me to pondering where the movement has gone in the intervening years.

If you’ve been a reader around here for a long time, you may recall that I covered a significant number of TEA Party-related groups that sprung up in the local area over the next couple years. Not only did we have the TEA Parties themselves that went on in both 2009 and 2010, but also groups like Americans for Prosperity and the Wicomico Society of Patriots. They went on for a couple of years but essentially died off from a lack of interest. (On the other hand, we still have the Worcester County TEA Party and 9-12 Delaware Patriots.)

Having been involved to a limited extent with the Wicomico groups, I can tell you that some of the players who remain active have gone “establishment” to the extent they remain active in the local Republican Party. Three of those most heavily involved have served on the Central Committee – unfortunately, that’s the only election where some of the TEA Party leaders have found success. While many in the area take TEA Party values to heart, they seem to vote for the names they know.

This erosion of the brand is also reflected on a national level. I used to write quite a bit about the TEA Party Patriots and expressed hope that the TEA Party Express would bring some of its star power to the region. In the last few years, though, the national movement has suffered from infighting as well as a concerted media effort to impugn the brand. I don’t hear nearly as much from the group these days, as their function has by and large been superseded by SuperPACs that fight for specific candidates or causes.

If you consider the high point of the TEA Party as the 2010 election, where the political landscape dramatically shifted in a more conservative direction in the wake of two consecutive leftward shifts as well as the adoption of an unpopular Obamacare entitlement program, then the nadir came two years later with Barack Obama’s re-election. A conspiracy theorist could point out that the 2010 election results put the Obama campaign on high alert, meaning they pulled out all the stops to ensure re-election with a little help from a compliant media. But one could counter by noting the movement wasn’t strong enough to topple frontrunner Mitt Romney and they shot themselves in the foot by staying home on Election Day. (As it was, though, Romney did get more votes than John McCain did in 2008.)

So while you can credit TEA Party principles for winning the day in 2014, the actual movement itself seems to be receding to a low tide. Since TEA is an acronym for “taxed enough already” it’s been pointed out by the Left that taxes really aren’t that bad, at least in comparison to the rates in place for administrations from Hoover to Carter. (This is a neat little chart to see the differences.) Ronald Reagan dropped rates twice: from 70% to 50% in 1982 and eventually down to 28% with the Tax Reform Act of 1986. It had been over 50 years since the top rate was less than 50%.

But that only considers income tax. Certainly as a 100-year body of work our current rates are on the low side, but back then we didn’t have the maddening plethora of taxes and fees we do now. Some are consumption-based taxes like sales tax on goods purchased or per gallon of gasoline, while others are considered some sort of “sin” tax like additional levies on cigarettes or alcohol, a combination that Marylanders endure to a larger extent than several of their neighbors. Even speed cameras could be regarded as a sort of “sin” tax, since supposedly the only ones who pay it are the ones who are speeding well above the posted limit. (Try as they might to convince us that it’s about safety, we all know they need the Benjamins. Why else would they have to install cameras in more and more dubious “school zones”?) Nor does that consider property tax, which tends to be the preferred vehicle for raising money for the public schools. In most states where districts have taxing authority, it’s not uncommon to see a school district seek three to four additional property tax levies a decade as they strive to raise funds for buildings and operations. (Maryland is different because counties pay for their portion of school funding from their general funds, so there are no ballot issues to deal with property taxes.) To make a long story short, we still consider ourselves taxed enough already.

As far as a formal movement goes, though, for the most part we are back to where we were around 2008. There is a lot of frustration with the direction of both parties, but this time rather than a movement without a leader people are going the route of a looking for a leader for what they consider their movement – hence, political outsiders Ben Carson and Donald Trump have been ahead of the Republican field for most of this campaign. (As further proof, the other side is still believed to be behind Hillary Clinton.) Carson is cast as the Godly, principled man who would quietly and reverently lead our nation in need of healing, while Trump comes across as the brash general who would kick butt and take names, restoring America to its top of the heap status.

Conversely, those who are conservative but came up through the standard political channels have fallen out of favor this cycle. In any other cycle, we would look at governors like Rick Perry, Scott Walker, or Bobby Jindal as frontrunners – instead, all three are out of the race. In terms of political resumes, the front-runners on both sides have even less to go on than Barack Obama did, and that’s saying something.

So it’s hard to tell where the TEA Party trail runs cold. I think a number of them have coalesced behind Donald Trump despite the fact The Donald is not a movement conservative. One recent rumor is that a Trump/Cruz ticket is in the works, which would perhaps appease the true believers. Trump’s success has belied the predictions of TEA Party leaders that he will be a flash in the pan.

But it appears the days of rallies like 9/12 are behind us. Such a pity.

Controlling the message

November 4, 2015 · Posted in Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Now that I’ve had an opportunity to look at some reaction from around the country from yesterday’s results, I’m noticing a couple themes.

First of all, Matt Bevin’s victory in Kentucky confounded the pollsters and political pundits who thought a TEA Party ticket couldn’t win despite the fact Mitt Romney carried the state two years ago. Even Fox News bought into this narrative, although they based their work on an AP story. Needless to say, the liberals in the media were quick to blame national anger for Bevin’s triumph. Obviously the people who thought they had run the TEA Party into the ground didn’t count on the people thinking for themselves and seeing past the leftist narrative.

Also lost in that win was the fact Bevin’s running mate, Jenean Hampton, is a black female near-political novice, and as such became the first black person to win statewide office in Kentucky. Yes, she ran as part of the ticket and not separately but in a close election as this was expected to be having the wrong running mate can be the difference between celebrating and conceding.

(By the way, as of January there will be just two black LGs in the country – Hampton and Maryland’s own Boyd Rutherford. The story fails to point out the obvious – both are Republicans.)

It’s even more interesting that Bevin’s support of Kim Davis didn’t hurt him, either. So you have a guy who ran against Obamacare and backed the faith-based civil disobedience of the Rowan County clerk, who was elected as a Democrat. If you believed the media and most of the GOP elite, Kentucky would be a lost opportunity for the GOP, but it turned out to be another GOP pickup. Obviously Bevin’s message against Obamacare and for school choice scored with Kentucky voters.

Speaking of surprising victories, it was assumed that Houston’s HERO legislation would be approved by voters. Instead it was crushed by 24 points and supporters were quick to blame its demise on opponents dubbing it the “bathroom bill.” The same was true in Maryland, but there wasn’t much interest in bringing it to the ballot, especially from the state Republican Party.

On the other hand, a few years ago the left successfully shifted the narrative on in-state tuition for illegal aliens from that fact to the image of “Dreamers” who were here through no fault of their own. They had over a year and a half to suck the passion out of the fervent opponents because the original bill passed in 2011 but the vote came in 2012.

As races move up the chain from local to state to national, the messaging becomes more important. This is why the revolt after the CNBC debate is so important. The moderators tried to promote their message but Ted Cruz and the others would have no part. Instead, they would prefer to put their own message out without the filter, in much the way Ronald Reagan succeeded in swaying public opinion his way.

Thanks to a trick of the calendar, we still are over a year away from the 2016 election. It appears the battle will be between a message of class envy and free stuff (that really comes at a cost)  versus a message that we need to roll back the excesses of government, put it in its proper place, and make it more responsive.

The tangled Webb Democrats weave

October 20, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

The first one in is the first one out – or is he?

Back in November of 2014, the world basically ignored Jim Webb when he became the first serious 2016 Presidential candidate to form an exploratory committee. And after that ignorance extended through a “debate” where his speaking time paled in comparison to the frontrunners, Webb saw the writing on the wall and announced the possibility of a different direction.

Some people say I am a Republican who became a Democrat, but that I often sound like a Republican in a room full of Democrats or a Democrat in a room full of Republicans. Actually I take that as a compliment. More people in this country call themselves political independents than either Republican or Democrat. I happen to agree with them. Our country is more important than a label. Democrats in years past like Sam Nunn, Scoop Jackson, Mike Mansfield and John F. Kennedy understood this.

(snip)

And I know I’m going to hear it, so let me be the first to say this: I fully accept that my views on many issues are not compatible with the power structure and the nominating base of the Democratic Party. That party is filled with millions of dedicated, hard-working Americans. But its hierarchy is not comfortable with many of the policies that I have laid forth, and frankly I am not that comfortable with many of theirs.

For this reason I am withdrawing from any consideration of being the Democratic Party’s nominee for the Presidency. This does not reduce in any way my concerns about the challenges facing our country, my belief that I can provide the best leadership in order to meet these challenges, or my intentions to remain fully engaged in the debates that are facing us. How I remain as a voice will depend on what kind of support I am shown in the coming days and weeks as I meet with people from all sides of America’s political landscape. And I intend to do that.

(snip)

I am not going away. I am thinking through all of my options. 240 years ago the Declaration of Independence from our status as a colony from Great Britain was announced. It’s time for a new Declaration of Independence – not from an outside power but from the paralysis of a federal system that no longer serves the interests of the vast majority of the American people.

The Presidency has gained too much power. The Congress has grown weak and often irrelevant. The present-day Democratic and Republican parties are not providing the answers and the guarantees that we can rely on. The financial sector represented by the Wall Street bankers is caring less and less about the conditions of the average American worker for the simple reason that their well-being depends on the global economy, not the American economy.

Our political process is jammed up. It needs an honest broker who respects all sides, who understands the complicated nature of how our federal system works, who will communicate a vision for our country’s future here at home and in our foreign policy, and who has a proven record of getting things done.

While Webb was a non-entity in the polls, over the weekend when I checked the RCP averages he was ahead of the little two of Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee, who combined were barely beating Webb. In reality the Democratic side is a three-person race between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden, who polls about 17% as a non-formal candidate. Compare that to the less than 1% Webb had and it’s no surprise he’s frustrated with the process.

Webb’s 2016 candidacy reminds me a little bit of Gary Johnson’s 2012 run. Johnson, the libertarian-leaning former governor of New Mexico, got an early start but could never catch fire among conservative voters, so he dropped out in order to secure the Libertarian Party nomination, which he received. He ended up getting just under 1% of the vote, which was roughly the support he was getting among Republicans.

The last time a candidate siphoned a significant number of Democratic votes was when Ralph Nader picked off enough far-left voters to tip the 2000 election to George W. Bush. Webb is running a centrist, populist campaign that if left unchecked could draw votes away from Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, though, he could also hurt Donald Trump if Democrats who don’t like the thought of voting for a Republican decide an independent Webb is the better choice. This would be especially true if the Democrats play the class envy card on Trump as they did for Mitt Romney.

So far it’s been a year where voters have coalesced around outsiders. Webb isn’t exactly an outsider as he served a term in the Senate and as a Reagan administration official. but he has been away for awhile. People tired of politics as usual may give Webb a chance if he has the means and money to get his message out. That wasn’t going to happen in the Democratic process.

Addressing the crowded stage

May 22, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

A few months ago, sensing the GOP may have up to 15 candidates in the race, I wrote about how the Republican presidential primary debates should be structured. With the addition of several candidates over the last month – I have 15 now listed on my sidebar – that may become a reality.

So the question is how these debates will be structured. According to Matea Gold in the Washington Post, Fox News will only take the top 10 in an average of national polls for their debates, while CNN will do the same with a twist – giving the bottom-feeders their own forum as well.

And forum seems to be a more operative word because there are a number of issues these candidates will agree on. Of course, the moderators (with the possible, but doubtful, exception of Fox News) will likely concentrate on the issues they perceive will create the most “gotcha” moments for the Democrat’s campaign to exploit – look for questions on social issues, repealing the most popular aspects of Obamacare, and “tax cuts for the rich” to lead the way, along with trying to get the candidates to throw George W. Bush under the bus.

My thoughts on the contenders buying their way into a debate and splitting the field into three (or more) groups, randomly selected, is one thing. But commentator Dan Calabrese believes in the flip side: “Get rid of the debates. They’re stupid.”

These meat parades are about the silliest spectacles ever to rear their heads in politics, and let us count the reasons this is true:

1. They are not debates. A debate is an argument between two people who disagree about something, or about many things. These are attention-grabbing contests in which each person on stage is trying to convince you of the same thing – that he/she is the true conservative, the true heir to Reagan, the true believer in small government, the real tax-cutter, whatever. Or they’re looking for the opportunity to say that someone else on stage (or maybe everyone else in stage) is not those things. I’m not sure what you call that, but I know what it isn’t, and that’s a debate.

2. The media should have no role in this performance theater, and certainly not as the “moderators.” Having them there simply makes it a glorified joint press conference, but it’s a bizarre press conference in which the people holding the press conference have no idea what they’re there to talk about, because the media could ask them about anything from Syria to health care to boxers vs. briefs. (And they will.) When the media rides its hubris for all it’s worth, you remember the media more than you remember the candidates. Bernard Shaw. Candy Crowley. Unless they want to run, get them off the stage.

3. Momentary anomalies come to define candidates in ways that should never happen. Rick Perry was the worst victim of this I ever saw. A momentary mental block kept him from recalling one of the three cabinet-level departments he had proposed eliminating, and the brain freeze was instantly seized upon as the end of his campaign. Which it was. That was crap. Say what you want about whether Perry would make a good president, but anyone can lose their train of thought in a moment, and what usually happens is you say to someone, “Hey, I’m having a mental block, what was that thing?” And they tell you, and you say oh yeah, and that’s that. It has nothing to do with your ability to do the job of president, nor does your reaction to someone’s zinger or a brief look of surprise that someone decides to call a “deer in the headlights moment.” These isolated events are stupid and irrelevant, and yet they are used to define you by people who are stupid and should be irrelevant.

4. We never learn anything. In fact, we often come away from a debate more ignorant than we were when it started. If you want to know a candidate’s position on something, go to his web site. If you want to know the legitimate criticisms of him, research that independently. If you judge anyone – positively or negatively – based on what they can say for themselves in a span of 30 seconds, you should be disqualified from voting.

I’ve often said that a candidate can’t (and shouldn’t) be judged on a 30-second commercial, but the sad fact is that a majority of voters do just that. It definitely bothers me because I lay a lot of time and effort into the process of selecting my candidate based on how they address the issues I care about and document my search – unfortunately I reach but a tiny fraction of the voters even one 30-second spot on a cable news network would (with the possible exception of MSNBC, where my readership may match their viewership.) Even if a half-million people actually watch the GOP debates, all the negative statements and gaffes (like Perry’s) are immediately beamed to a much larger audience.

Yet if we don’t have these forums, there is the question of whether certain issues would be addressed. I realize this can lead to pandering to a particular audience, which is a complaint I’ve had with some local forums such as the NAACP ones, but at least it’s understood going in that the audience will be listening for the answers to their particular concerns. If I had a forum, I’m sure I would ask a certain roster of questions, too, and sometimes when I attend these events I indeed have my questions asked.

So there’s really no fair process in place. Eventually the problem will work itself out to the extent that a few candidates will be out before the leaves change color, but Calabrese has a point.

My contention and wish, though, is that people do their due diligence in determining who they would vote for. I don’t think this was done sufficiently in the last two Presidential elections, so look at what we got. Granted, neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney may have been the answer, either, but I think we hardly could have done worse. Go back to 2007 and I can tell you why.

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.

Ted Cruz: a palette of bold colors

By Cathy Keim

I finally had the time today to watch the entire Ted Cruz speech at Liberty University on March 23, 2015, where he announced that he is running for president. It seems certain that he has locked up the conservative right position. I don’t see that he left room for anybody to get past him, nor am I sure that there is anybody who would try. He is going to run a campaign that many conservatives have been calling for: A conservative running unapologetically as a conservative.

His campaign, if he continues on this course – and I see no reason he would budge since he has been saying the same thing since he arrived in Washington – will put to the test the notion that a true conservative can win the presidency. John McCain and Mitt Romney never even tried to run as all out conservatives.

Sarah Palin was the closest to an all out conservative in those two cycles and she was hampered by being the vice presidential candidate, so she had to march to John McCain’s orders. Many folks believe that he would have lost by an even greater margin if he had not had her on the ticket.

Since Mitt Romney chose a moderate GOP insider, Paul Ryan, as his vice president and got even fewer votes than John McCain, there may be reason to believe that theory.

We can expect that all the dirt that was thrown at Sarah Palin will be turned onto Ted Cruz. One twist is that the liberal media and politicians will not be able to use his alma mater since Ted Cruz has the credentials from Princeton and Harvard Law to stand up to any of the jabs. He also has the debating skills and the spine to resist the onslaught.

He will have the same fight that Palin has had that is even worse than being attacked by the opposing party – the GOP will viciously savage him. The mainstream GOP has already shown their disdain for Senator Cruz as they have not backed him in any of his efforts to fight for the Constitution, against Obamacare, and against executive overreach.

In an article for the Boston Herald, Jennifer C. Braceras points out that Ted Cruz is the mirror image of Obama, standing for exactly opposite positions, but with eerily similar backgrounds. She even addresses the birther problem:

Indeed, similarities extend even to bizarre “birther” claims that neither men are “natural born citizens” qualified to be president.

Cruz — whose father fled Castro’s Cuba — was born in Canada. Obama was born in Hawaii, although some on the right question whether he was actually born in Kenya (his father’s birthplace). The question of birthplace is, of course, irrelevant — both men were born to American mothers, thereby granting them U.S. citizenship at birth and making them “natural born citizens” for purposes of the Constitution.

While she does not see the birther issue as a problem, she does postulate that the electorate will not stand for another brilliant Harvard law grad after eight years of our current one.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Ted Cruz. I supported his 2012 run for Senate because I remember him from law school as a brilliant, intellectually curious, and hard-working conservative whose political views closely tracked my own.

So somebody who says they like his views and finds him brilliant concludes by saying that he doesn’t have a chance because of the Harvard arrogance tag. With friends like this, you don’t need enemies.

The mirror image comparison to President Obama is interesting, but fails to address a key difference. President Obama does not like America and Senator Ted Cruz does. What a sea change that simple distinction makes.

Furthermore, I have observed that people of principle who work hard in their field of endeavor because of their firmly held principles, are frequently savaged by their peers because they recognize that this individual is different than they are. The principled approach to life encourages accusations of arrogance because of the assurance with which principled people conduct their lives. Once their mind is made up on the course of action, they will pursue their goal even if it is not popular. This can seem like arrogance to people who cannot understand what they are seeing since they run their lives not on principle, but on public approbation.

Jeb Bush is gearing up for a run and he has already made clear that he will not be courting the conservative branch of the GOP. He is for amnesty, Common Core, and his energy policies are wrong. The biggest hurdle may be the burden of bearing the Bush name. Many citizens are not interested in a family dynasty ruling over them.

Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, has been making a lot of news with the possibility of running. He has been an effective governor in a blue state and has taken on the unions and won. He is certainly a candidate to watch. As a counterpoint to Ted Cruz’s Ivy League background, Walker attended Marquette University, but never graduated. Some people will see that as a negative, but just as many may see it as a plus after observing what so many Ivy League alumni serving as politicians, media people, and government leaders have done to our country.

Ben Carson is contemplating a run, but after the gay mafia firestorm he caused by offering an opinion on whether one is born gay, many wrote him off.

There are many others considering a run. Time will tell how many actually jump in the ring.

It would behoove the conservatives to make their decision as quickly as possible, throw their weight behind one candidate, and once the decision is made to stand firm. The onslaught from both the Democrats and the GOP insiders will be brutal. Nothing is to be gained by attacking the conservative candidate for every perceived misstep. Instead, once the choice is made, the conservatives need to close ranks and fight hard for the battle will be vicious. Every conservative candidate will be questioned over and over about gay and transgender issues, abortion, evolution, climate change, and religious freedom. They need to have their principles inform their position and then stand. Do not walk anything back once they say it and the conservative base needs to have their back.

This can all be done with a smile. It may be war, but engage in the battle with a smile because we are in to win. Our determination is based on the premise that we believe in what we are fighting for: no less than the soul of America.

The Democrats’ biggest fear (for now)

It’s a concept I first heard from Rush Limbaugh, but it makes common sense: your opponents will show you what they are most afraid of by what they speak about and the terms by which they do so. In this case, perhaps their biggest fear going into 2016 is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was the subject of a DNC e-mail I received featuring this quote:

The DNC characterized this as an unsavory comparison, which some called a “gaffe.”

Obviously Walker was trying to portray himself as one who actually has a spine, unlike a lot of those who are in federal office at this time.  As a governor he has little foreign policy experience, but he has faced down more than his share of policy-based adversaries given his stance against the public-sector unions in Wisconsin. (It’s interesting to note that the Democrats in that Wisconsin case turned tail and ran rather than stand and fight for their beliefs. Par for the course.)

But Scott Walker has surged to the top of the polls because he’s maintained a relatively conservative line through the four-plus years he’s served as Wisconsin governor, winning not just two but three elections where Democrats have thrown the kitchen sink at him, including a trumped-up ethics investigation. A state that was considered to be safe for Democrats is now up for grabs because a conservative has led it for an extended period of time and performed successfully. That turnaround and the fact he actually stared down a key liberal constituent group and prevailed explains much of Walker’s appeal at this stage of the game. It’s a record none of the Democrats currently eyeing the nomination can match.

You may also recall that Walker was the subject of liberal wailing and gnashing of teeth a week or so earlier when he didn’t bite on questions about Rudy Giuliani’s remark questioning Barack Obama’s love of America. Add this to the CPAC speech and more and more on the Right are convinced Scott Walker is the Left’s biggest fear going into 2016 – so, to the liberals, he must be destroyed at all costs. Walker is hardly an elite or establishment GOP fellow, and it’s that relationship with the common man that Democrats fear, unlike Mitt Romney who they could (and successfully did) portray as a Wall Street patrician.

At this point, though, what difference does it make? To Americans who want a clear choice for President it makes all the difference in the world.

Question of the night

February 19, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Politics · 2 Comments 

I haven’t set up an online poll for this – and there is the chance I may not, just using the comment section here and social media to see if my suspicions are correct – but I’m really curious to know what would happen if Jeb Bush wins the GOP nomination next year.

Anecdotally, the consensus seems to be that Jeb would make Mitt Romney’s 2012 vote total look really, really good. There are also some who postulate that a Bush family nomination for the fifth time in eight elections would bring about the end of the Republican Party, but I can’t see that happening with the way current ballot access laws are written.

I suppose there are several shades of answers I could get to the question I spelled out above. Some of these are:

  • I’m hoping Jeb Bush is the GOP nominee because he’s the best guy for the job and will bring millions of new voters to the GOP.
  • Jeb isn’t my first choice, but if he’s the nominee I’ll be backing him with my vote (and my checkbook and/or volunteer time.)
  • Meh. Jeb will be better than Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat. I’m going to concentrate on the Congressional and Senate races.
  • Jeb Bush = lesser of two evils.
  • Another Bush? I’m staying home.
  • I’m tired of the Republican Party always nominating squishy moderates, so I’m done with them if Jeb is the nominee.
  • Is there a link for the (pick your preference: Libertarian, Constitution, Conservative) Party on this site?
  • Any chance I can still sign up for that one-way trip to Mars?

So that’s my question of the night – call it an open thread. Be creative in your answers for bonus points.

Romney takes the exit ramp

It’s all over the news today – sort of a Friday afternoon news dump, but definitely fodder for the Sunday talk shows: 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney said he was taking a pass on the 2016 race.

In their coverage, Fox News cited a poll from earlier this week that showed the race without Romney narrowly favored Jeb Bush, who had 15% of the vote in a wide open field. (Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul were at 13% apiece, Ben Carson was at 10%, and Scott Walker at 9%.)

Romney was the leader in many polls at this early date, with the caveat that polls this far out are heavily based on name recognition. But Mitt’s withdrawal, coupled with the decision earlier this month by his running mate Paul Ryan to stay in the House, means there’s no real odds-on favorite based on previous runs, unless voters decide Sarah Palin is not past her expiration date.

The conventional wisdom is that the money and advisers who would have worked on the Romney campaign will gravitate toward Jeb Bush and not Chris Christie – the guy who fits the Northeastern governor mold that Romney carved out last time. It’s probably why this poll conducted by Fox News worked out as it did. But the fact that 85% of the voters don’t support Jeb Bush and three times as many of those polled prefer one of the next four candidates down means that the GOP electorate isn’t nearly as sold on the younger Bush as Democrats are sold on the “better half” of the Clintons. To me, those who sat out the 2012 election because they weren’t excited about Mitt Romney are going to make it two in a row if Jeb Bush is the GOP standard-bearer.

If 2016 is another Bush-Clinton match 24 years later (with different players) my prediction is that we will see a record low turnout. I also think honest historians a century hence will see this run of Presidents from Bush 41 through Obama as the weakest since the group from William Henry Harrison through James Buchanan – a two-decade period where the United States couldn’t resolve the slavery issue and fought a war with Mexico, although they won. Granted, two of the seven presidents during that era died in office, but none of them served more than a single term in a restless time in our history. In the modern era, we have seen government grow and become more lawless, fought a pair of unpopular wars abroad, and watched the middle class struggle in a tumultuous economy. It’s not certain whether Mitt Romney would have turned that tide, but he didn’t win in 2012 and history isn’t very kind to nominees who lose a general election yet run again the next time.

The 2016 election really doesn’t have a parallel in the recent past. 2012 was a lot like 1996 in that they both pitted incumbent Democrats whose party was creamed in the most recent midterm election prior to those years (2010 and 1994.) But both Democrats survived when the GOP put up “establishment” moderate candidates in Mitt Romney and Bob Dole.

We need a path to victory in 2016, and Mitt Romney probably sensed he wasn’t the guy. It would take a lot to convince me Jeb Bush would be that person, too.

 

Testing the muddy waters

The GOP presidential field looks to be the deepest in many years as there are candidates coming out of the woodwork. It’s the time in the cycle when hopefuls make their intentions known, as Scott Walker and Lindsey Graham have done over the last few days.

All these candidates could make for a clunky debate, since an hourlong program with twenty candidates leaves very little time for broad exploration of the issues. And how do you determine who to invite and who to leave out? Right now there’s not just the known candidates, either – according to the FEC, 157 people have filed the necessary paperwork with them to run for president, with some barely waiting until the last election was over to file. I suppose in theory they should be in the debates, too.

But in response to a Facebook post about the prospect of who’s in and who’s shut out of the debates, I came up with a couple ideas I thought worthy of sharing with a wider audience.

Apparently there are 12 pre-primary debates scheduled, and the concern is having too many in the format – so they would use the polls to determine who gets in. To me, this is a problem because polls at this early stage are just name recognition – naturally a Mitt Romney or Jed Bush may poll much better than Walker or Graham, yet both could bring good ideas to the table. For example, Walker has taken a hardline stance against the abuses of Big Labor in government while Graham is a hawk when it comes to radical Islam.

So what I would propose is a debate not based on polls, but who can buy their way in. Anyone who has an exploratory committee or has filed, and can come up with a relatively significant amount – say $50,000 – can be in the debate regardless of poll numbers. (The money would be held in escrow for the eventual nominee.)

But Michael, you say, we would probably get 18 to 20 contenders, including one of those longshots who no one’s ever heard of. Well, the person would get one shot in what would be a series of hourlong debates, held on the same night in groups of 5 to 7, made as numerically equal as possible. Having 18 participants would mean three groups of six; groups which would be drawn at random so that the opening group in debate number 1 would be different the next time, and of course some will drop out or won’t be able to afford another debate.

If you assume the debates are the most important thing for a campaign at this early stage, then they should be open to whoever can afford the spot to get in. And if you complain about the monetary aspect, well, please come up with a better way of proving viability. It keeps the debate field to those who take it seriously and not those who just fill out the FEC paperwork as a lark or for publicity.

Now if we can get good debate moderators, we would be in good shape.

A Palin problem?

January 27, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

As the 2016 Republican presidential field begins to expand rapidly, there is one name that evokes equal parts devotion and disgust: Sarah Palin. The question of whether or not she would run in 2012 sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the early days of that race, yet this time she’s not the slam-dunk favorite some thought she was in the wake of her 2008 candidacy – which I would argue revitalized a somnolent John McCain campaign – and the 2010 TEA Party wave election. Certainly others with longer gubernatorial records can boast more relevance.

On the other hand, there is a significant portion of the conservative electorate which loved her story and honest willingness to stand up for those principles in a humorous manner. I was there two years ago when at CPAC Palin mocked the effort to ban large-sized sodas by taking a few sips out of a Big Gulp during her speech. It’s an approach which is apparently off-putting to some in the Republican establishment – witness the acid tone of this recent National Review Online piece by Charles C. W. Cooke from which I excerpt:

For a long while now, Palin has not so much contributed arguments and ideas as she has thrown together a one-woman variety show for a band of traveling fans. One part free verse, one part Dada-laden ressentiment, and one part primal scream therapy, Palin’s appearances seem to be designed less to advance the ball for the Right and more to ensure that her name remains in the news, that her business opportunities are not entirely foreclosed, and that her hand remains strong enough to justify her role as kingmaker without portfolio. Ultimately, she isn’t really trying to change politics; she’s trying to be politics — the system and its complexities be damned. Want to find a figure to which Palin can be reasonably compared? It’s not Ronald Reagan. It’s Donald Trump.

That is an interesting comparison considering that Donald Trump is making news again about running for President – at least enough noise that Breitbart News took the time to speak with him about it.

Yet while it can be argued that Trump has plenty of both business acumen and self-promotional skills – qualities Palin also has, as evidenced by her frequent forays into series television and devoted fan following – Trump has never taken the helm of the ship of state. His one advantage, which would certainly be turned against his by class-warfare-exploiting liberals, is that he’s willing to self-finance his campaign. Donald is definitely part of the 1 percent, while Sarah Palin’s chief sin seems to be the aspiration to join him despite her modest upbringing.

I’ve noted before that eight years can sometimes be the period of political rehabilitation, with the pre-Watergate Richard Nixon being an example. Having lost the 1960 Presidential election as the sitting Vice-President, he then ran in 1962 to be governor of California and lost again. But Nixon stayed active in the political world and reclaimed the GOP nomination in 1968. Similarly, Sarah Palin set her political office aside in 2009 but has stayed active in that “kingmaker” role with some success, campaigning for Republicans around the country.

Yet Sarah will not be the only one with executive experience who can appeal to Republicans. Just a cursory glance at some in the possible field reveals that a number of recent or current governors may jump in: Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Scott Walker are among those mentioned, and all have more time in their governor’s office than Palin’s two-plus years.

Just as I would say to any of those I mentioned above, the more the merrier. The GOP field is perhaps the most wide open in memory, with a number of good candidates that a deep bench provides. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is the heavy favorite – but she was at this stage in the 2008 campaign as well, even with a fairly large initial field as the Democrats were the party out of power the previous eight years. But there are likely many rank-and-file Democrats who would like a break from the Clinton circus and may not be keen on the prospects of a President Biden, so their side is a little dispirited and less than enthusiastic.

There’s a school of thought out there which believes the political opposition will tell you who they are most afraid of by the amount of ridicule and criticism heaped their way. In that respect Sarah Palin is a leader because she gets flak from both the Left and the establishment Republicans, and it’s one aspect where the Reagan comparison is quite apt.

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