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The Cordray Crisis

David Frum January 5th, 2012 at 11:02 am 89 Comments

Constitutional abuse begets constitutional abuse.

President Obama has engaged in a dubious maneuver to force a recess appointment through a Senate that denies it has recessed.

(Brad Plumer has a good run-down of the legal issues, here.)

The president’s action has ignited a fireworks show of Republican outrage. And yes, Obama has here pushed presidential power beyond past limits.

But it’s not only presidents who can bend the rules. Click here to read more

the scroll

Hello everyone. David and I have been in meetings all day but we made time to check in on the comment thread announcing the move to the Daily Beast and Newsweek. The support in the comments has been remarkable. However, there seems to be some misunderstanding going around so we wanted to clear up a few things:

1. Although David has been mandated with writing excellent magazine pieces for Newsweek, he will still be blogging regularly at The Daily Beast. In fact, we will be getting our own Andrew Sullivan-style blog. As of my most recent meeting, the url will be: http://www.thedailybeast.com/davidfrum. This blog will be updated as frequently as FrumForum always was.

2. This new blog will have comments! I strongly encourage all our regulars to sign up for the Daily Beast & Newsweek’s comment system. You are a dynamic and well informed commentating community, and I have no doubt you can raise the caliber of the debate at the Daily Beast (and if nothing else, you will continue the work of keeping us honest).

3. FrumForum.com will be retooled into an archive. The URL, frumforum.com, will redirect to the new site, but all the content and blog posts will be saved. The current homepage should be accessible via a new url: frumforum.com/homepage. All the content that has ever been written on FrumForum will be preserved.

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Gridlock Forever

January 5th, 2012 at 4:50 pm 28 Comments

Far from yielding an ambiguous electoral outcome, the Iowa caucuses solidly confirmed the Balkanization of the Republican Party, a fact that will lead to potential electoral failure in 2012 unless neutralized soon. These internal divisions hurt the party’s leadership in Congress in 2011; they have already improved Democratic chances to retain the Senate, gain substantial seats in the House, and keep the White House in 2012.

Super-imposed on this chaos is a 2012 Congressional legislative schedule that virtually no one on Capitol Hill believes has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever passing.

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Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has introduced a bill to repeal “birthright citizenship.” It’s probably the most significant immigration reform bill introduced in Congress since 1965 when nation quotas on immigration were repealed. That revision in the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) significantly changed the racial and ethnic composition of the country and the number of unskilled immigrants.

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Someone should listen to John McCain. Asked by First Read whether he thought Arizona was in play this election cycle, McCain reportedly responded “I think that if not this election cycle, the demographics are that Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, even Texas will all be in play.” The Senator then added, “We have to fix our problems with the Hispanics.”

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Via an interesting post by Chris Conover, I came across this recently released National Health Expenditure report, which has data on health-care spending up through 2009.  This data includes a state-by-state breakdown of personal health-care spending (a number that includes direct expenditures on health-care but does not include administrative costs).

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I have always been weary of the whine regarding the purported “liberal media”; having won 60% of presidential elections over the last 40 years, near-complete dominance of the radio airwaves, and a cable news behemoth with ratings greater than the aggregate of both its nearest competitors, conservatives are hardly the most suppressed segment of our society. Yet even for a skeptic like me, MSNBC’s coverage of the Iowa caucuses was truly a sight to behold.

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In my column for The Week I discuss the problems with Rick Santorum economic plan:

Santorum’s concern for the American middle class has been one of the most attractive features of his candidacy for the Republican nomination. Alone among the Republican candidates, he took note of the freezing of upward mobility and the stagnation of middle-class wages even before the financial crisis of 2008.

So what’s his plan? Santorum has proposed a special lowered rate of federal tax for manufacturing.

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So it looks like the indications are that Rick Perry, former front-runner, last place finisher in the 2011 Republican Debate Tournament, is not hanging up his brush jacket yet. Despite his very melancholy nigh-concession last night, the Texas governor seems to be headed to South Carolina instead of back home to Austin.

The question is: Why?

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David Frum argues that a “A Romney-Santorum contest is not much of a contest at all.” He’s probably right about this. Romney beats Santorum hands down in resources, organization, discipline, and support from GOP elites. But there’s one wild-card that could make things interesting: Santorum may somehow learn to master the art of retail politics.

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Ron Paul’s Bad Memory

David Frum January 4th, 2012 at 10:14 am 33 Comments

Odd experience on CNN this morning.

I was on a panel that had a chance to interview Ron Paul. I asked this question:

“I attended a precinct caucus last night where the person who spoke on your behalf praised you as a strong social conservative: pro-life, anti-gay marriage. He also described you as pro-defense, he said you voted in favor of the war in Afghanistan and supported the killing of bin Laden. That’s at variance with the things you yourself have said. Would you today affirm that you support the Afghanistan war and the bin Laden killing?”

Paul said yes, but that is not in fact true, at least as to the killing of bin Laden.

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The Road Ahead

January 4th, 2012 at 8:44 am 7 Comments

In the wake of the Iowa caucuses, what matters now is not the exact order of Romney, Santorum, and Paul; the numbers are very close. What does matter is the range between the candidates. Iowa gives us basically a tie between Romney and Santorum, with both at around 25%. Ron Paul comes out a strong third at around 21%. Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann, and Huntsman, who did not even campaign in Iowa, fall far behind.

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We have just received yet another confirmation of the virtual uselessness of the Ames Straw Poll. The proud winner of the straw poll, Michelle Bachmann came in sixth in the Iowa caucuses (and in fact finished dead last among all serious contestants–Jon Huntsman just ignored Iowa). Furthermore, she only managed to win just slightly more votes in the caucus than in the straw poll, even though the turnout was seven or eight times greater!

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The Expectations Game

David Frum January 4th, 2012 at 7:57 am 118 Comments

Byron York has a tough read on the meaning of the Iowa result for Romney.

In the end, Romney escaped humiliation, and he did it at far less cost than in 2007-2008, when he gave Iowa everything he had in his first run for the GOP nomination. “If you look back four years ago, we had 52 paid staff in Iowa, and this time around, we have five paid staff,” top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said a few hours before Tuesday night’s results came in.  “In terms of advertising, we spent $10 million in the run-up to the caucuses four years ago, and we’ve spent a fraction of that this time.  And in terms of the candidate’s own appearances in Iowa, he was here 100 days or so four years ago, and this time we’re at about 15 days.”  [It was actually a few more, but that doesn't change Fehrnstrom's point.]

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Based on the tiny unrepresentative sample at the precinct caucus I attended: his core group are true believers, who have absorbed his message on Austrian economics and foreign policy non-interventionism.

But when they communicate to the broader Iowa Republican rank-and-file, they repackage Paul as a much more conventional conservative: pro-life, pro-military, small government, and supportive of the operation that killed bin Laden. If Paul ever does gain altitude, he will be very vulnerable to negative advertising that exposes the truth of his beliefs and background.

Well, however tonight turns out it appears Rick Santorum is being given his chance. I particularly liked the analogy that makes the boyish Santorum Luke Skywalker, but whether the X-Wing takes down the well-coiffed Death Star Santorum’s doggedness and convictions appear to be paying off. And for those of you who comment at FrumForum even David Brooks is now on board! Only a month later than your humble scribe.

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Wargaming The Caucuses

David Frum January 3rd, 2012 at 3:48 pm 38 Comments

Result 1:

Romney wins, Santorum second, Paul third, Gingrich fourth, Perry fifth.

This is the result indicated by last day’s polling. If it eventuates, this will be a very short nominating contest. Romney will proceed to win in New Hampshire. Perry and Gingrich will try to make a last stand in South Carolina. Unless one or the other wins outright, their money will dry up after three consecutive losses. Santorum and Paul may remain in the race, but it will essentially be ballgame over by the time of the Florida primary on January 31st.

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The violence in Mexico related to drug trafficking has continued over the past year, even though it hasn’t been in the headlines in the US in recent months. While in some cases there has been a lull in the violence, such as in Ciudad Mier, a small border town that was largely abandoned because of drug cartel violence and is now recovering from the destruction it had suffered, the carnage still continues.

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Andrew Sullivan complained yesterday that I had engaged in a “McCarthyite” attack on Ron Paul by writing the following:

A politician isn’t answerable for the antics of every one of his supporters. But there’s surely a reason, isn’t there, that racists, anti-Semites, 9/11 Truthers, and Holocaust deniers are so strongly attracted to the Paul campaign. They hear something. They continue to hear it too, no matter how firmly Ron Paul’s more mainstream supporters clamp their hands over their own ears.

Andrew’s riposte:

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Waiting Time in Iowa

David Frum January 3rd, 2012 at 9:33 am 27 Comments

I attended Romney’s closing rally last night in Des Moines. Very professionally done, introduction by Senator John Thune.

Three themes really stood  out:

* Romney opened with a statement about the danger from Iran. Without mention of Ron Paul, it astutely poked at the top vulnerability of the second-polling candidate here.

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After quoting from a speech where a Republican presidential candidate praises the space program, Mark Palko writes:

I [Palko] don’t know what the reaction of the crowd was (the reporting wasn’t that detailed) but I’d imagine it was friendly. You can usually get a warm response from a Republican crowd by coming out in favor of manned space exploration which is, when you think about, strange as hell.

If you set out to genetically engineer a program that libertarians ought to object to, you’d probably come up with something like the manned space program. Click here to read more