Entries from July 2009

The Dog Ate the Dems Homework

July 31st, 2009 at 5:11 pm 6 Comments

At 9:55 am (EST) on September 11th, medical just after the second World Trade Center was struck, discount Jo Moore, former British press officer sent an email to her colleagues which read “It’s now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors’ expenses?.”  It is in her honor that I identify one story every Friday afternoon that our wonderful government tried (and failed) to bury.

The story Washington’s P.R. people will be working hardest to bury or bring to light (depending on which side of the aisle they are on) concerns what won’t be done at the end of this last day heading into the Congressional recess.  President Obama made it very clear from day one that he had three major legislative priorities, all of which he publicly pushed lawmakers to complete prior to Congress’ August recess.  He wanted to pass an effective stimulus bill, he wanted to pass cap-and-trade legislation, and he wanted to pass comprehensive healthcare reform.

The Democratic dominated Congress failed the President.  The House and Senate did manage to come together and pass the $787 billion dollar omnibus stimulus package, however the effects of the little stimulus money that has been spent thus far have been minimal and the president has already begun hearing calls from within his own party for a “second” (it would really be a third stimulus package… but whose counting anyway?) stimulus.  But let’s generously call the stimulus a “victory” for President Obama.  The economy is showing signs of life (although unemployment remains high… and will continue to grow even as the economy emerges from its slumber since unemployment is a lagging indicator).  The economy didn’t collapse and without the stimulus it may well have. So we will say that this makes Obama one for one on major promises.

His second priority was comprehensive cap-and-trade legislation to curb carbon output.  Congress hardly provided the president with what he was looking for. The House bill, Waxman-Markey, is an incredibly diluted bill.  For example, the president was insistent that carbon credits be auctioned off, yet the House bill gives them away for free.  The bill barely got past the House (219-212) despite the Democrats considerable numbers advantage.  The Senate not only will not vote on the bill before recess, but many experts wonder whether the bill can get past the Senate at all.  So Obama is now one for two.

Finally, the Obama Administration talked and talked and talked about comprehensive healthcare reform and how it “could not wait.”  Obama continuously insisted that Congress pass healthcare reform before the August hiatus, however it was not to be.  The House has a proposal ready, however not only are Republican members of the House unhappy, the powerful coalition of Blue Dog Democrats, without whom the bill cannot pass without any Republican votes, have essentially said that unless amended, they won’t vote for the bill.  Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel wanted a vote before this afternoon, but they will not get it.

The Senate, the more deliberative and bipartisan (and intelligent) of the two chambers of Congress, has also moved slowly.  Two healthcare bills are eventually expected to emerge from committee, one primarily authored by Senator Ted Kennedy, and the other (and more important of the two) by Senator Max Baucus. Baucus has refused to move forward without bipartisan support, and more work will be needed after the recess before anything is ready.  In other words, no health bill before the August deadline and now the media and Republicans have an entire month to take shots at Democratic plans.  Thus healthcare is also, at least so far, a loss for the president.  One for three.

With the stimulus bill being second guessed, the cap-and-trade bill facing defeat, and healthcare reform in limbo, the president has found out the hard way that the legislative process does not lend itself to campaign promises.  The president may yet emerge victorious on healthcare and time may vindicate him on the stimulus bill (he will almost certainly lose the battle in the Senate on cap-and-trade) but at least for the next month, Democratic lawmakers and the Obama administration will be desperately trying to change the narrative to focus on anything but those deadlines that they failed to meet.

Have the Birthers Duped the GOP?

July 31st, 2009 at 2:11 pm 162 Comments

A poll released by Kos/Research 2000 found that 28% of Republicans believe that President Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. and that another 30% of Republicans “aren’t sure” whether or not the President was born in the U.S.

OK, it’s a Kos poll. OK, too, given the age of the GOP base, it may be that respondents were confused about the legal status of a Honolulu birth. “Hawaii a state? When the hell did that happen?”

If the poll is to be believed, only 42% of Republicans believe that the President of our country was born in the United States.

It’s hard to believe that 58% of Republicans take seriously the conspiratorial mutterings of a handful of obvious nutcases. What the poll numbers suggest instead is hard-core sore loserdom.

Republicans have to know that birtherism is factually incorrect, ignorant, and idiotic. Ladies and gentlemen: please, get a grip on yourselves.  If you don’t like the fact that Democrats are in power, engage in intelligent criticism. There’s a lot to criticize! But fruit-cake xenophobia will not defeat this President.  It’s nonsense and it needs to stop.

You Read It Here First on NewMajority

July 31st, 2009 at 10:49 am 11 Comments

Nine days ago, ampoule NewMajority’s Tim Mak discussed the advantages of nuclear fuel reprocessing:

Considering the benefits, pills nuclear fuel reprocessing warrants attention, reflection and research… If the United States is serious about reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, it will need to expand nuclear generation – and if nuclear is to fulfill its promise, fuel reprocessing is essential.

Last night, Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Joe Barton and U.S. Rep. Fred Upton introduced a bill that authorizes the use of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Waste Fund to recycle spent nuclear fuel.

According to a press release obtained by FrumForum.com, Rep. Fred Upton said:

We must restore some sanity to our nation’s nuclear policy, especially in light of the Administration’s foolish diversion from Yucca Mountain. France, Britain and Japan have all enjoyed great success using recycling technology originally developed in the United States, yet we are still hamstrung by Jimmy Carter’s misguided decision to halt recycling here at home… With current technology, an individual’s lifetime share of spent fuel is about the size of a soda pop can, but with recycling we’ll reduce that volume to the size of a Kennedy half dollar. In addition to the environmental benefits, nuclear recycling would create thousands of high paying jobs here at home.

You can read the entire bill here.

Beers of the Presidents

David Frum July 31st, 2009 at 9:24 am 30 Comments

What we learn from the Obama-Gates-Crowley summit: Bud Light must poll better among Obama’s target demographic of white working-class men than Miller Light. Once again, Biden cannot fake it: He doesn’t care what the polls say, he’s having a Buckler. Professor Gates’ first choice was a Red Stripe, but on second thought he seems to have decided that the Jamaican brew was too black, and switched to the Boston local favorite, Sam Adams. Officer Crowley allowed himself a little private joke. He had Blue Moon, described as a Belgian-style “white beer.” It’s made by Coors, underwriters of the Heritage Foundation.

Does the Public Like Obamacare More Than Clintoncare?

July 30th, 2009 at 8:23 am 16 Comments

Bob Shapiro, author of two important books on public opinion (The Rational Public, 1992, with Benjamin Page, and Politicians Don’t Pander, 2000, with Lawrence Jacobs) sent me this report he just wrote with Sara Arrow, comparing public opinion for Obama’s health care initiative with opinion in 1993-94, when Bill Clinton’s health plan crashed and burned. They write:

The increasingly favorable climate of public opinion for health care reform that Clinton had in 1993 eroded enough by 1994 to dissipate any strong push on the public’s part for reform . . . All signs on the surface were that Obama took office in January 2009 with the same–or an even greater–impetus for health care reform. . . . It would therefore not be surprising to find–and there was every reason to expect–that Obama would have behind him even a more favorably disposed public than Clinton had to help move reform legislation forward. But has this been the case? Our best estimate is, overall, probably not, and this explains the battle that Obama has faced in getting public support to help the reform effort along through Congress or to offer approval later of any landmark legislation that is passed and implemented.

Shapiro and Arrow look at 18 survey questions on health policy, comparing average responses in 2009 to those in 1994. They define change in opinion as a shift of six percentage points in the balance of opinion in one direction or another. This is what they found:

* 5 questions where opinion was more favorable to health care reform in 2009 than in 1994: Does the health care system need to be rebuilt? Do you think the president’s reforms will decrease the amount you’ll pay for medical care? Do you think the Democratic party is more likely than the Republicans to improve the health care system? Do you approve of the way the president is handling health care policy? Do you favor the president’s plan?

* 4 questions where opinion was less favorable in 2009 than in 1994: Do you favor national health insurance, which would be financed by tax money? Would you be willing to pay higher taxes so that everyone can have health insurance? Would you be willing to pay more–either in higher health insurance premiums or higher taxes–in order to guarantee health insurance coverage for all Americans? Do you think the federal government should guarantee health care for all Americans?

* 1 question with a change whose direction is ambiguous: More people think that the country spends too much on health care, which is either in favor of Obama’s plan (national health care as a cost-saving move) or against it (if national health care is viewed as an extra public expenditure).

* 8 questions where public opinion is essentially unchanged.

In balance, then, Obama has faced a public opinion climate similar to Clinton’s in 1994.

As we’re all aware, opinion is volatile on these issues: support of health care reform does not necessarily translate to support for any particular policy. And a lot depends on Congress, where the Democratic majorities have a strong interest in seeing their party succeed. When translating opinion to policy, though, Shapiro and Arrow seem to have a good point when they write,

While the reports in the press of public support for major changes have been accurate (though varying from opinion poll to opinion poll, depending on how the survey questions were asked), they did not examine fully how current public opinion compares to what Bill Clinton faced in 1993-1994.

Time for Steele to Drop the Stereotypes

July 30th, 2009 at 8:22 am 55 Comments

Michael Steele has discovered a new tool for recruiting more blacks to the Republican Party: chicken and potato salad. Seriously! When I initially heard about Steele’s remarks, try I laughed in disbelief and told the person explaining it to me: “No, ampoule way.” Well… then I watched the clip on YouTube.

A Hoosier Access reporter asked the RNC Chairman the following question at the Young Republicans convention in Indianapolis in July:

“I wanted to ask you regarding your inclusion of diverse populations in the Republican party. What is your plan moving forward?”

Steele responds: “My plan is to say y’all come. Cause a lot of you are already here.”

Unidentified person shouts: “I’ll bring the collard greens.”

Steele adds: “There you go. I got the fried chicken and the potato salad.”

I’m surprised someone didn’t say they’d bring the watermelons. The assumption in this food banter is all black people are the same, they love to sop up collard greens, fried chicken and potato salad.  What’s ironic is moments after making these comments, Steele says the Republican party “welcomes and embraces” people of different backgrounds. Not with comments like that you won’t.

In fact, the person who told me about the remarks is a young, white Republican who found the comments “off-putting” at best. She went on to explain that she thinks it demonstrates Steele’s struggle with being a black Republican while at the same time acting as the voice of a party most uncomfortable with discussing issues of race and diversity. If Steele, as the first black chairman of the RNC can’t be effective in recruiting more black voters, then who can?

Numerous opportunities have arisen over the summer for Steele to recast the GOP as a more tolerant, dare I suggest, compassionate party of diversity. But he has remained strangely silent this summer on such topics as the racist comments uttered by various GOP folks and most recently the Gates arrest.

Steele’s remarks and the outcome of the Young Republicans Convention, where racist Audra Shay was elected its new chairman, doesn’t bode well for the GOP’s future. Someone commented to me that sadly the state of the Young Republicans is just a mirror image of what’s going on in the Grand Old Party. This person even said recently, while attending an event at the Heritage Foundation with a woman in her fifties, that the woman glanced around the room, shaking her head and remarked, “I guess we’re just going to have to wait until all these old people die off for the party to change.”

The party’s outward image doesn’t look like the welcome mat for diversity. Just for kicks I visited the Young Republican National Federation website. Its leadership is almost exclusively white and its promotional video “This is my party” is pure vanilla, no chocolate or strawberry in sight.

The GOP needs to move into the MODERN world: stop viewing ethnic groups through stereotypes, tune into what’s really important to voters and identify issues where the GOP shares common ground with groups. Leave the finger licking good comments to Colonel Sanders and get the PARTY started, y’all hear?

Quit Whining!

David Frum July 30th, 2009 at 6:45 am 3 Comments

Read all of the articles in Frum’s Quit Whining! series here:

Quit Whining!
July 27, 2009

The United States in 2009 is living through the fiercest challenge to market institutions and limited government since the mid-1970s. Defenders of free institutions will need the utmost energy, courage and perseverance for the work ahead. And yet at just this moment, the prevailing tone among those defenders is one of the most extreme despair.

* * *

Quit Whining 2
July 28, 2009

In the last post, I noted how unreal it was for conservatives to lament the demise of liberty in the aftermath of the most beautiful efflorescence of liberty in a century. Pessimism is misplaced as a matter of fact. It’s a betrayal of conservatism’s own achievements.

* * *

Quit Whining 3
July 28, 2009

I’ve addressed why the liberty v. tyranny trope self-betrays conservative history and why it corrodes America’s constitutional norms. But that’s not the bottom of it. Today’s conservative despair also sabotages our effectiveness in practical politics.

* * * *

Quit Whining 4
July 29, 2009

Perhaps – as some critics of this series have argued – I am too complacent in the face of an unprecedented attack on American liberties. To quote one passionate writer, who has sold many more books than I ever have or likely ever will: Our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion. It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky.

* * * *

“Moron” “Idiot” “Lardass” “Fraud”: Mark Levin Replies
July 29, 2009

My series on conservative despair mentions Mark Levin among others. Here the talk-show host responds with his familiar suavity of manner and elegance of language.

How the GOP Can Wage Urban Warfare

July 30th, 2009 at 6:44 am 96 Comments

Recently, medicine at a packed house during the National Association for Colored People (NAACP) Convention held in New York City, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele spoke about a joint-venture with the RNC & the NAACP.  The hope is to find common ground in addressing some of the major problems facing both blacks and urban America.

Michael Steele began his speech with a litany of sobering statistics on the fate of blacks in America. As he ended the speech he noted that instead of reading a recent study he was actually quoting John F. Kennedy from the 1960’s, sharply underscoring the fact that while there may be an African-American president, there is still much that has not been done for African-Americans.

The NAACP working with the RNC will indeed be a unique change of course given the often testy relationship between the two institutions. It is not without precedent given that many of the NAACP’s first defenders and early founders were registered Republicans. The future relationship between these two groups will be an interesting one to watch. Will it fade out as soon as Steele leaves his chairmanship?  Will other RNC chairmen participate in future events? Can the two groups work together on an urban agenda that encourages self-empowerment?

Nevertheless, a more interesting question is: How is the Republican Party doing with regards to reaching out to minorities and urban folks in general? What has the message been in the past and what will it look like in the future?

I believe that at the heart of the GOP’s failure to effectively reach out has been an unwillingness to mention race or demographics with regards to any type of legislation that may be favorable to minorities or urban America in general. This is to say that we do not take credit where credit is due, often giving Democrats the opportunity to claim such ideas as their own.  Recently John H. McWhorter, a Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow in Public Policy and a Contributing Editor to City Journal, stated on a recent radio interview that Republicans don’t take credit for the things they do to benefit black America.

He stated that Bush and many other Republican presidents had polices implemented that helped minorities and urban areas but never took credit for those policies. They preferred to highlight other policies while allowing the Democrats to take credit for their ideas. One example of this theft is the Democrats increasing willingness to accept charter schools. Democrats knowing that charter schools are popular are trying to take credit for this implementation also. It’s actually one of the hardest polices for them to take credit for because Republicans invoked race when selling charter schools. The GOP argued earlier that charter schools would benefit minority and urban communities and made this very clear.  Amongst a host of other things, however, we have not made it clear who its beneficiaries will be.

A solution to much of this idea-stealing would be the creation of a broad taskforce and initiative working with a coalition of urban and minority Republicans around the nation. Imagine a team of urban Republicans from around the nation: from the Bronx, Harlem, Los Angeles and Detroit coming together and offering up strategies and suggestions for winning the hearts and minds of urban and minority voters. Once thetaskforce gets the results in, it could send the results over to Michael Steele. Michael Steele, in working with the RNC, could create an urban Republican website which would come up with practical solutions on a host of urban topics.

These topics could include such issues as transportation, education, gas prices and housing just to name a few. Also, the taskforce could request a panel of urban Republican experts in various fields who could offer some suggestions for improving urban America. Another important factor is using the voter vault to empower those already registered as Republicans. How many registered Republicans are in Harlem or the Bronx or Detroit? The RNC and state chairs could begin reaching out to these Republicans in the inner-cities. While it is true that most of these areas are heavily Democratic, there are still hundreds and thousands of registered Republicans and independents in these areas.

One suggestion for those interested in this issue is to read a study entitled Blacks & the Republican Party by the Joint Center for Economic Studies. The document is a great start in chronicling where we, as a party, went wrong. Perhaps it can demonstrate where we can turn the tide. In order for the GOP to win in urban America a few hard systemic questions must be asked and analyzed.  The questions asked should be strong questions.

For instance:

Who is responsible in each state for minority and urban outreach?

What type of accountability structure is in place to determine if the State is doing the job or the task assigned?

Is an urban and a minority coalition team in place?

What are the goals of such a team?

Does the party have a strong nationwide urban platform?

Has the party figured out why many black Republicans who run for office do poorly in polls?

What modules could be used to better propel a candidate?

Have we begun to effectively create an online strategy to use micro-targeting via Facebook and blackplanet.com?

Are we targeting the young?

The future of African Americans and other minorities in the GOP should be focused primarily on young people. We must, therefore, make sure that in every policy decision that essentially our message is targeted toward the youth. In other words, we want The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s, Carlton Banks, not his parents.

Another, more important, issue deals with resources. Are we, as a party, going to put our money where our mouth is by creating a special fund for minority and urban outreach? If such a fund were created would it have an advisory board and an auditor to see what metrics work and what did not?

Also, we must ask:

Have we built effective candidate farms in which scouts find up and coming talent? Do we stand behind them should these urban and minority candidates choose to run? Or do we encourage them to run and hide behind them just to see what happens?

Have we started a school to train minority and/or urban candidates before they seek office?

Have we made sure that urban minority GOP state groups have functioning websites?

Are state chairs taking their responsibilities seriously by making outreach a real goal? If so, are they funding such outreaches? Are the outreaches effective? These and many other issues must be considered.

Given that state chairs have a great deal of power in our party, 70% percent of the work in this area will be up to them; not the RNC. A suggestion would be to allow the RNC to run all such operations if the state chairs neglect to do so.

The building blocks for repairing the GOP’s fractured relationship in urban areas must start as soon as possible. It will take all sectors of the party coming together and making firm commitments to change. Whether we as a party are up to this daunting and Herculean task still remains to be seen. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that as a party we pull through. Let’s remember also that outreach is not pandering its being responsible for taking action to grow our party in communities where we are currently under-represented.

Obamacare: Headlines from the Future

July 29th, 2009 at 3:14 pm 8 Comments

“2024 Best Seller of the Year: Do it Yourself Brain Surgery”
-New York Times Book Review, click Dec 2024

“Is 65 the New 82?”
US Weekly, viagra sale Jul 2035

“New Prius Ambulance: No Siren or Emergency Lights but Really Low Carbon Footprint”
AutoWeek, Mar 2019

“Better than Expected Death Figures Boost Social Security”
Washington Post, Sep 2031

“Hospital Waiting List Longer than Tax Code”
DrudgeReport.com, Feb 2027

“Poll: Doctors Least Popular Government Employees; DMV Clerks Distant Second”
Gallup Poll, May 2041

“Success: Lower Birth Rates Reduce Infant Mortality”
Editorial, New York Times, Jun 2021

“After Centuries of Disrepute Leeches Make Comeback”
Los Angeles Times, Feb 2066

“Senate Set to Debate Pancreaticoduodenectomy”
Politico, Aug 2044

“Ex-President Barack Obama Departs for Switzerland. Extensive Medical Tests Planned”
New York Times, Mar 2040

Gates-Gate: Time to Move On

July 29th, 2009 at 11:28 am 7 Comments

Thank you, President Obama.

As a conservative who believes this issue was blown out of all proportion, I am grateful for your secondary comments regarding the arrest of Professor Gates. I must admit, I was hoping for a full apology and retraction, but as Pat Buchanan put it, “It was a goodly slice of humble pie the president ate there, but it was a class act. To ask more would be churlish.”

For those conservatives who continue to attack the president’s comments, and Professor Gates, remember that we have health care, cap-and-tax (I mean, trade), illegal immigration, the Honduran crisis and the Iranian protests, among other issues, with which to attack the president and create our own effective policies. The Gates debacle is over – the police officer (Crowley) has won in both the public eye and legally, and this particular distraction from the major issues is over with. While the issue won’t die as long as a tiny minority of Republicans give the race-baiting Democrats the opportunity to make headlines (or as long as Democrats create such headlines without Republican provocation), let’s handle each issue as it arises (after all, as George Will might say, we DO live in an entitlement society, so these situations will arise again).

For those liberals who blame Crowley, let’s agree he almost certainly overstepped his boundary, assuming Gates identified himself. If Gates didn’t, well, that’s a different issue. The facts are, however, that police everywhere (especially on the Cambridge force, black, white and otherwise) are defending Crowley, and the man’s record shows no racial prejudices to speak of, and in fact show a police officer who is vastly in favor of racial blindness. Instead, can you please support the D.C. school voucher system, where Democrats are trying to prevent 1,700 poor students – most of them minorities – from receiving a quality, low-cost education because the unions don’t like the program’s success?

On both sides, let’s not let this distraction keep us from the issues. President Obama has realized his mistake, as has Professor Gates, and even many of Crowley’s defenders admit he stepped over the line, perhaps because of ego. Either way, the evidence increasingly shows it was likely a case of both parties overstepping certain professional and personal boundaries. Let bygones be bygones, shall we?