the scroll

Rebecca Wodder, President Obama’s nominee to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks will be a topic of discussion in the business meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Thursday. And many Republicans on the committee are sure to raise tough questions about her.

Wodder, the former CEO of the environmental group American Rivers, holds a number of positions that conservatives largely disagree with. But if they actually believe that frequent (and true) conservative refrain that big government damages the environment, she deserves enthusiastic support from Republicans on the committee.

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Noah asks in his post whether one could trust a Randian banker.

By coincidence, I read Noah’s post on John Allison while I was in the middle of reading Donald Luskin’s through-the-looking-glass book on the characters that allegedly either contributed to or didn’t contribute to the financial crisis: I Am John Galt. It has a whole chapter on Mr. Allison and his leadership at BB&T, and how his Objectivist philosophy informed its policies.

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With the race for the Republican Presidential nomination now seemingly down to two candidates – Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney – suddenly Romney is in the uncharacteristic role of underdog.

Astonishingly (to me), generic polls show Gingrich some 10 points ahead of Romney in the upcoming Iowa primary; 8.6 points ahead in South Carolina; 16.5 ahead in Florida. In New Hampshire. Romney leads by 16.5 points. Nationally, Real Clear Politics has Gingrich leading Romney by 6.2 points.

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Signs of Hope, Part 5

December 6th, 2011 at 11:54 am 66 Comments

Make sure to read previous entries in the ‘Signs of Hope’ series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

As Newt Gingrich surges in the polls in Iowa and other early primary states, several leading conservative columnists are explaining why Gingrich should be rejected by Republicans voters. Their arguments deserve a wider audience.


Ramesh Ponnuru:

Gingrich’s fans say that he isn’t the same man he was then; he has “matured” in his 60s. Maybe so. But he’s still erratic: This year he flip-flopped three times on the top issue of the day, the House Republican plan to reform Medicare. He’s still undisciplined: He went on a vacation cruise at the start of his campaign. He still has the same old grandiosity: In recent weeks he has compared himself to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and said confidently that the nomination was his.

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News that astronomers using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope had discovered an Earth-like “Goldilocks” planet where liquid water can exist certainly deserves the attention it has received. In fact, evidence of life surviving–and even thriving–in very unlikely places on Earth tempts one to believe that, given billions of years and a decent supply of organic molecules, life (albeit simple bacterial life) will eventually develop just about anywhere liquid water exists.

All that said, even absolute evidence of bacteria or non-sentient animals on an alien world would offer plenty of grist for scientists in certain fields but little that would change the life for most people in the short term.

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A horrifying act of sectarian terrorism targets Shiite worshipers in Afghanistan:

KABUL — Twin blasts at Afghan shrines on the Shiite holy day of Ashura left at least 58 people dead on Tuesday, with one massive suicide attack in Kabul ripping through a crowd of worshippers including children.

The attack in the capital and another in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif came a day after an international meeting in Germany aimed at charting a course for Afghanistan, 10 years after US-led forces drove the Taliban from power.

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Pakistan’s national security establishment may be the most dangerous force threatening world peace. Yet not all the news is bad.

Eli Lake has produced an astonishing report detailing the construction of a pro-American counter-establishment within the Pakistani services which is struggling at enormous personal risk on behalf of a secular, democratic Pakistan oriented to the West.

Officially, America’s relations Pakistan’s military and intelligence services were in a tailspin in August. Furious at having been kept in the dark ahead of the Americans’ May 2 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, Pakistan’s military had kept U.S. investigators out of the place until it was scrubbed for evidence and had refused them access to bin Laden’s wives for some time. And the Pakistanis had outed the CIA’s Islamabad station chief, putting his life at risk. Meanwhile, back in America, fears were rising over possible al Qaeda attacks on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.

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Your Morning Newt Basket

David Frum December 6th, 2011 at 7:58 am 99 Comments

John Podhoretz on Gingrich in the New York Post today. “[Republican primary voters] know him mainly from Fox News.”

From a funny story in Politico that I missed while traveling: “He’s going to blow up at some point, and I’m just hoping it comes before he gets the nomination,” said one unaligned Republican insider, who has worked with presidential campaigns before. “I’m waiting for him to say, ‘Literally, I’m the smartest guy to ever run for president,’ “

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All you really need to know about the state of Washington, D.C. are three facts:

A–a majority of Republicans in the Senate defeated a bill to extend the payroll tax holiday that was introduced by their own Senate Minority Leader last week;

B–President Obama has decided that the only real legislative item he wants passed is that very payroll tax holiday–not deficit reduction, not extension of unemployment benefits, not ending the expansion of the Alternative Minimum Tax into the middle class, not preventing a 27 per cent overnight reduction in payments to Medicare providers;

C–Congressional Democrats and Republicans, as well as the White House, still have not approved the basic appropriations bills necessary tokeep the government operating.

To extend what should be extended will cost about $200 billion plus. The President doesn’t want to run the risk as a big taxer, so he is watching as Congress wrangles, something that has been thematic about this President–talk and watch.

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Newt Gingrich recently described his 2008 appearance in a 30-second ad with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “the dumbest single thing I’ve done.” Many conservatives share a negative view of it. Ron Paul, order for instance, search cites the ad as an example of Newt’s “serial hypocrisy.”

Curious, I took a look at the ad, eager to assess its dumbness. Here’s the full transcript:

Pelosi: Hi, I’m Nancy Pelosi, lifelong Democrat and speaker of the House.

Gingrich: And I’m Newt Gingrich, lifelong Republican and I used to be speaker.

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Only Yesterday

David Frum December 5th, 2011 at 11:42 pm 24 Comments

Newt Gingrich endorsed Harriet Miers.

Conservatives should feel confident with the selection of Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court for a simple reason: George W. Bush selected her.

The Republicans have finally found a tax increase many of them can get behind. Unfortunately it’s the first middle class tax increase in decades. Make no mistake, failure to renew the payroll tax cut would mean a significant tax increase.

If nothing is done, then starting next month everybody who works for a living will have an extra 2% of their pay deducted from each and every paycheck, and everybody will surely notice that.

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Conservatives give a lot of deference to the opinions of business leaders and other ‘job creators’. The operating assumption is that their criticisms of White House policies are accurate and well informed. What if this assumption is largely off-base?

Consider this roundtable hosted on CNBC between Austan Goolsbee, the former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and several business executives. Pay close attention to the arguments made by John Allison, former CEO of the bank BB&T:

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In my column for CNN, I discuss how Mansoor Ijaz is putting Pakistani democracy in danger:

Big events do not always have big causes. The British once went to war over an injury to a sea captain’s ear. And today’s Pakistan may collapse into military rule because of one man’s eagerness to read his name in the newspaper and see his face on TV.

The man in question is Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American businessman who takes a special delight in political intrigue. Ijaz represents himself as a democrat, a secularist, and a friend of the West. Whatever Ijaz’s personal views, nobody has done more these past weeks to undercut Pakistani democracy and poison U.S.-Pakistan relations.

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In an interview with Laura Ingraham, George Will despairs of the choice between Gingrich and Romney as GOP frontrunners:

Ask yourself this: Suppose Gingrich or Romney become president and gets re-elected – suppose you had eight years of this…What would the conservative movement be? How would it understand itself after eight years? I think what would have gone away, perhaps forever, is the sense of limited government, the Tenth Amendment, Madisonian government of limited, delegated and enumerated powers — the sense conservatism is indeed tied to limitations on federal authority and the police power wielded by Congress — that would all be gone. It’s hard to know what would be left.

In a column, Will doubles down on this line of criticism.

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Give Santorum His Chance

December 5th, 2011 at 12:00 am 59 Comments

Well the punditry has pretty much come down to determining that Republican choices are Gingrich or Romney. Here’s the big Kahuna of Conservative Commentary on that very subject.

In my quest to avoid voting for Romney I have pretty much picked through the remainders of announced candidates this year. In that piece I ruled out Perry and Huntsman and my criticisms are only more justified now. The best candidate for my money left early. In that piece I dismissed Bachman as unelectable and so she remains. I left Herman Cain before he claimed to be a man who, physician unbeknownst to his wife, paid the monthly bills of a woman he never slept with. Newt is not my guy either. Paul is obviously not for me.

But I never came back to Rick Santorum.

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In my last post I argued that Justice Elana Kagan is obliged by 28 U.S.C. 455 (b)(3) of the federal recusal statute, see which applies to Supreme Court justices, to recuse herself from the challenge to the Obama Health Care law. The provision requires a judge to recuse if he or she “has served in governmental employment and in such capacity participated as counsel, adviser… concerning the proceeding or expressed an opinion concerning the merits of the case in controversy.”

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The Man Who Invented the Euro

David Frum December 3rd, 2011 at 12:06 pm 8 Comments

The Telegraph today posts an interview of Jacques Delors by Charles Moore.

I ask the man who prides himself on being an architect of European Union whether he got it all wrong. Unhesitatingly, cheap he denies it. It is a fault in the execution, medical not of the architects, which he claimed to have pointed out in 1997 when the plans for introducing the euro finally came together. At the time, he says, the best of the eurosceptic economists, whom he refers to as “the Anglo-Saxons”, raised the simple objection that if you have an independent central bank, you must also have a state.

Mr Delors thinks “they had a point”, but the way round this problem was to insist on the economic bit of the union as much as the monetary. As well as creating a single currency, you also had to create common economic policies “founded on the co-operation of the member states”.

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If Saudi Women Drive

David Frum December 3rd, 2011 at 11:39 am 34 Comments

The social consequences will be horrendous, warn Saudi Arabia’s clerics:

As part of his careful reform process, King Abdullah has allowed suggestions to surface that the ban might be reviewed.

This has angered the conservative religious elite – a key power base for any Saudi ruler.

Now, one of their number – well-known academic Kamal Subhi – has presented a new report to the country’s legislative assembly, the Shura.

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Recent comments by Newt Gingrich to the effect that illegal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for 25 years, remedy “obey the rules, have children and belong to a church” should be allowed to remain here are deliberately deceptive. His premise is that an illegal immigrant can somehow live and work in this country for a long period without breaking any laws. He should know better and probably does.

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