Free Markets, Free People

2012 election

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 29 Jul 12

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about the totalitarian mindset of the left, and its consequences.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 19 Feb 12

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the controversy over the HHS contraception mandate.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

GOP Candidate Thumbnails

After watching last night’s debate, I think I’ve finally nailed down my final impressions of the candidates.

I can’t help it, but every time I see Michelle Bachmann, she strikes me as being minutes away from boiling a bunny. But she hides the whole Fatal Attraction vibe pretty well.

Newt Gingrich seems to have a high opinion of himself, and the massively weighty thoughts that spring from his Olympian brow. He seems to content to let other people follow up on those ideas, as he’s too busy producing new deep thoughts to craft the old ones into reality. Thank God.

When Ron Paul starts his inevitable tirade against the Freemasons/Jews, I can’t say I will be surprised.

Mitt Romney almost convinces me that he does have core conservative principles. Almost.

If I close my eyes when Rick Perry speaks, the foremost image in my mind is George W. Bush. A slightly more eloquent one, of course.

A Rick Santorum/John Edwards ticket would have been the prettiest campaign team EVER. And talk about a "big tent"!

What can I say about Jon…um…Hunter? Hu….mmmm…Huntsman! Yes. Huntsman—that hasn’t already been said? Very distinguished hair.

Gary Johnson is a way friendlier face for libertarianism than Ron Paul. Or would be, if anyone outside New Mexico had ever heard of him.

If Jeb Bush could change his last name to "Rogers" or something, and jump into the race, he would probably lock up the nomination in days.

~
Dale Franks
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Newt, Mitt and the incumbent Democrat

I’m not much of a Paul Begala fan, but in fact, like a blind pig will eventually find an acorn, he’s gotten this one right.  Why is Newt Gingrich in ascension?  Well because the ABR crowd’s latest candidate, Herman Cain, imploded.

ABR you ask?  Anybody But Romney.

Begala:

More likely the Gingrich surge is just the latest Republican tulip craze (count the pedantic historical references I use in Newt’s honor!)—with Newt simply serving as the latest vessel for the ABR movement: Anybody But Romney.

Mitt Romney has been running for president nonstop for about five years now. And he has gone from 25 percent in the 2007 Iowa caucuses to 18 percent in the latest Bloomberg poll of Iowa voters. He’s the Harold Stassen of 2012. Face it, Mitt: they’re just not that into you.

Republicans, apparently, will date anyone before they’ll marry Mitt. Remember their brief fling with Donald Trump? Then, after he decided not to throw his hair into the ring, they fell for Michele Bachmann, the Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya of the far right. Then it was Rick Perry—the guy who claims he jogs with a loaded gun (without a safety) tucked into his shorts. And now that they’ve tired of Herman Cain’s, umm, hands-on style of leadership, it’s Newt’s turn.

Begala’s point is fairly obvious but true.

However, there’s a very important point to be made despite that.   A recent poll found that Obama, Romney and Gingrich are statistically tied in the swing states.  Romney, as Begala and others point out, isn’t even the consensus GOP pick.  In fact, the GOP voters are willing to look at everyone else to see if any of them provide a suitable replacement for Romney.  And even the candidate they’d prefer to replace Romney with is tied with the incumbent Democrat.

That isn’t good news for Democrats if you think about it.  If the guy that is the last pick of the GOP faithful (or so it seems) is able to tie the incumbent president in swing states, how bad will it be when the GOP (and supporters) finally pick one candidate and get behind him (even Romney)?

Begala thinks Gingrich would be a “gift” to Democrats.  He’s right to an extent.  But the Republican’s gift is sitting in the White House right now. He actually has to run on a record this time, and it’s not an enviable record.  While it is true that Republicans are still trying to find their man (or woman), there are indicators such as that poll that say that regardless of who they choose, even if it is a baggage laden Gingrich, Obama has big trouble. 

So far those like Paul Begala choose to ignore that point.  Their intent now is to attack the GOP candidates personally as they’ve always done in the past (remember Begala comes from the Clinton campaign where the politics of personal destruction were raised to an art form) and hope they manage to demonize the Republican pick enough to let their guy slip by.  It’s about the only hope they have.

Gingrich will provide a target rich opportunity there.   But, given the incumbent, will it be enough?  I’m not so sure.  I’m certainly not convinced that Gingrich will prevail, but I do think that Democrats right now are either in denial or simply not aware of how deep the electoral trouble is that their candidate is in.  Whoever the GOP chooses, he will not play John McCain to this election year’s Barack Obama.

While everything is mostly focused on the GOP and their interminable debate cycle, at some point, Obama has to step out of the shadows and actually begin his run.  That’s when the real games will begin, and I’m not sure the Democrats yet understand that much of the fire the GOP candidates are now receiving will shift to Obama when that happens. 

It ain’t gonna be pretty when it does.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 21 Aug 11

In this podcast, Bruce and Dale discuss Rick perry, the Obama jobs plan, and much more.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

The anti-Perry full-court press begins

I‘ll be honest with you. I dunno if Rick Perry would be a good president or not. I don’t even know if he’s been a particularly good governor of Texas. But it’s becoming apparent he’s perceived as a pretty big threat to Barack Obama. The guy entered the race less than 48 hours ago, and we’re already being treated to things like this, this, and this, from the usual suspects on the left. It’s like the oppo research has already been done, and they were just waiting to go with it. As hard as that might be to believe.

In the next couple of weeks, we’re going to learn more about Rick Perry than we ever thought possible. Which kind of inclines me to think that anybody that has the Left jumping in to castigate them this quickly must have something going for him.

What’s especially interesting about this response is that we knew what Rick Perry’s college grades were before he even announced his candidacy, and 2.5 years into Obama’s presidency, we can merely state, with some degree of confidence, where he went to college.

At least we won’t have to worry about whether Rick Perry gets properly "vetted".

~
Dale Franks
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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 14 Aug 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss The Ames Straw Poll and the 2012 election.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

2012 is gonna be nasty

Mitt Romney is upset that the Obama team is planning to run a negative campaign of personal attacks against him.

Obama has remained personally popular — scoring as high as an 86 percent approval rating in the District of Columbia in a recent Gallup poll. But while he’s personally well-liked, the president’s overall approval rating is 43 percent compared to 48 percent disapproval, according to Gallup.

With that knowledge and the poor economic climate, Politico reported that the Obama campaign has no choice but to give up the 2008 campaign of "hope" and turn negative, portraying the incumbent as "principled" whereas Romney is an "opportunist." 

By the way, going to a DC Poll to prove how well-liked Obama is, seems like a pretty clear case of cherry-picking your polls for a positive result. In any event, there’s more from Politico:

The dramatic and unabashedly negative turn is the product of political reality. Obama remains personally popular, but pluralities in recent polling disapprove of his handling of his job, and Americans fear the country is on the wrong track. His aides are increasingly resigned to running for reelection in a glum nation. And so the candidate who ran on “hope” in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent…

“Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney,” said a prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House.

The onslaught would have two aspects. The first is personal: Obama’s reelection campaign will portray the public Romney as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, “weird.”

Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign focused on a now-famous aphorism: "It’s the economy, stupid." It was the top theme of the campaign that carried the Arkansas governor to the White House. Skip forward 20 years, though, and the Obama administration’s campaign can rightfully be characterized with the slogan "It’s anything but the economy, stupid!" Seeking re-election with 9%+ unemployment and sub 2% GDP growth means that the economy is literally the last thing you want to discuss.

In fact, it’s difficult to figure out what, exactly, the Democrats can push as a positive result of the Obama Administration.  His signature achievement, Health Care Reform, remains deeply unpopular. The debt to GDP ratio has risen to 100%—and no doubt will be higher next year. For all his talk about deficit reduction, the president hasn’t actually put forward a written plan, though he has given a number of speeches.  His signature economic reform at the moment appears to be increasing taxes on "the rich", i.e., any family making more than $250,000 in household income. But beyond that is the deeper fear that the social welfare statism that has been the central tenet of the Democratic party for the last 30 years is simply unsustainable.  Not only is it nearly impossible to financially justify any real expansion of social democracy in the US, it’s difficult to see how even the current levels of welfare state spending can be sustained.

For the last three decades, Republicans have made soothing mouth noises about smaller government, while in actual practice, have continued driving the car off the cliff. The main difference between them and the Democrats, is that the Republican establishment has been firm in their refusal to upshift past third gear. On most occasions, anyway. That hasn’t really been particularly helpful. Both Republicans and Democrats in the political class have embraced a set of assumptions that spending increases are baked into the budget baseline, that any reductions in that baseline increase are "cuts", and that the time for financial rectitude—if it ever came—was at some hazy point in the far future.

Sadly, we’ve learned, as Rams coach George Allen used to tell us, that the future is now.

So, now, there’s the rising threat of the TEA Party, and their explicit argument that the welfare state experiment has been a financially disastrous failure, in that, even if one were to stipulate, arguendo, that the Democratic Party’s policies accomplished everything they wished in terms of creating a compassionate society, it would still be doomed to end due to the unsupportable financial burden it imposes. But, of course, while the latter is true, the former certainly isn’t, so there’s declining enthusiasm for continuing to support expensive programs that simply don’t accomplish their stated objectives.

In such an electoral climate, what remains, in the absence of any solid record of accomplishment, growing distrust of government, and financial/economic failure, is simply the will to power. And to maintain that power, destructive personal attacks are just about the only tool left in the Obama campaign toolbox. After all, we’ve already seen the change, and, so far, it hasn’t offered much hope.

The attacks that have been launched on the TEA Party are instructive.  If you can judge the quality of an opponent’s threat by the response it provokes in his enemies, then the TEA Party is enormously threatening to the entrenched political class. So far, they’ve been subjected to accusations of racism, extremist violence, been blamed for the failure of debt ceiling negotiations and the S&P downgrade of US debt, and derided as cranks and "hobbits".  Nearly every political ill has been ascribed to them by the political class—Democrats and establishment Republicans alike. I can only presume that this is because the political establishment perceives them as a threat.

By the same token, any Republican candidate can now expect withering personal attacks in response to any perceived electoral threat to President Obama. It may come from the Obama Campaign. It may come from media surrogates like Tina Brown’s Newsweek, which intentionally ran a cover picture this week whose sole purpose was, apparently, to make Michelle Bachmann look like a loon. It may come from campaign surrogates like SEIU union goons to heckle and disrupt campaign rallies. 

But, there’s no doubt that we’re in for a high level of personal nastiness and invective. This election is not going to be about some minor adjustment to spending, or some trifling adjustment of tax rates, or some nibbling at the edges of the regulatory state.  What is at stake in the 2012 election is the continuation of a world-view; a political philosophy that sees ever-larger government as the cure to whatever ails us. This next election is the first big battle for the survival of that worldview as the majority view of the political class, or the survival of the insurgent TEA party idea that government has become to large, too intrusive, and too expensive, so therefore must be radically reduced. There is little room to compromise between these two visions of government.  Indeed, in most ways, they are worldviews that are mutually exclusive. Over the next decade or so, we are going to learn which of these two views will prevail, and if the US, as presently composed, will remain a united polity.

We are now at a point where the fabric of the Republic is about to be tested as it hasn’t been since the Civil War, and this election is the first major event in that test.

It’s not going to be pretty.

~
Dale Franks
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GOP makes big gains among white voters

I’m beginning to believe the saying circulating lately may have some truth to it – “if you voted for Obama in ‘08 to prove you weren’t a racist, you need to vote for someone else in ‘12 to prove you’re not stupid”.

It seems that at least one demographic may be over its fear of race and satisfied the historical moment has been satisfied and passed according to Pew:

Fifty-two percent of white voters identified themselves as Republicans compared with 39 percent who called themselves Democrats in the survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The rest said they were independents.

In 2008, 46 percent of white voters said they were Republicans versus 44 percent for Democrats.

That’s a fairly significant turn around.   I think it is hard not to believe the point above isn’t somewhat true as well.   I actually believe there is a portion of the white population that needed to prove to themselves they weren’t hung up on race.   And the “historical” part was pretty compelling too.  Being a part of voting the first black person into the highest office in the land had a psychological historical feel-good aspect too it that was appealing.  It was something they could brag  about to the grandchildren.  And they would have, if only Obama had held up his end of the bargain and actually been someone for whom it was actually worth voting. 

But for many of those voters, we now have what has been described as buyers remorse.  Having bought into the demonization of the past president, George Bush, that portion of  white voters who swung the election Obama’s way thought “really, how could he be worse – and John McCain?  Get real.”

Well he is worse.  In fact Obama is worse than their McCain nightmare.   So we see the swing.  Guilt and history have been assuaged.

What does that mean for Obama – well, as we’re all driven to say when asking that question right now – it’s early.  But we may be spotting a trend if we talk about what happened and 2010 and now:

The findings pose a challenge to Obama as he seeks re-election next year. Republicans made big gains in the U.S. Congress and state governments in the 2010 mid-term elections and are attempting to deny Obama a second term as president.

"There was a large enthusiasm gap in 2010, with Republicans far more enthusiastic and interested in the election," said Leah Christian, a senior researcher at the Pew Center who worked on the report.

"A lot of what we’re seeing in the data is a continuation of where we were in 2010," she said.

The “enthusiasm gap” remains fairly large and continues to carry over from 2010.  These numbers were first evident in 2010 during the Congressional elections.

However, that said, obviously a lot in the outcome in 2012’s presidential election will depend on the candidate the GOP finally settles on.   The generic Republican seems to be doing pretty darn well these days.  Unfortunately, the problem is with the specific Republican candidates – as usual.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

30,000 troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan

I’m all for winding down our commitment in Afghanistan, but it should be for solid reasons to do with the security and stability of that nation and not because of US politics.  Alas I fear what we’ll hear tonight has been decided for exactly that reason and no other.

Barack Obama is set to reject the advice of the Pentagon by announcing on Wednesday night the withdrawal of up to 30,000 troops from Afghanistan by November next year, in time for the US presidential election.

The move comes despite warnings from his military commanders that recent security gains are fragile. They have been urging him to keep troop numbers high until 2013.

The accelerated drawdown will dismay American and British commanders in Kabul, who have privately expressed concern that the White House is now being driven by political rather than military imperatives.

And, of course, they’re entirely right.  Obviously military commanders are going to argue for more, not less – and most people understand that.  They will always say they need more.  But in this case, what they’re arguing is they need to keep what they have.  The so-called “surge” has barely been completed and full deployment of those assets is only months old.  We’re in the middle of a “fighting season”.  Certainly it would be better to announce and begin these withdrawals, whatever their size, in the colder months when the fighting is naturally less.

But to the point – “listening to the generals” is apparently only something Republican Commanders in Chief should do.  Obama has decided, for entirely unmilitary reasons, it is time to pull the plug on any hope of holding our gains in Afghanistan.  Note, I didn’t say get out of A’stan.  30,000 troops isn’t even close to a full withdrawal (100,000 there now).  However, it is a margin of difference between consolidating and keeping what we’ve driven the Taliban out of and being too thinly spread to do that.   In fact, that was the whole purpose of the surge (just as in Iraq) – take and hold.

The withdrawal has created deep divisions in Washington. The defence secretary, Robert Gates, argued for a modest reduction – at one point as low as 2,000 – citing the advice of US commanders in Afghanistan that they need to protect gains made during the winter against the Taliban.

But senior White House staff, conscious that the president has an election to fight next year, argued in favour of a reduction that would send a signal to the US public that an end to the war is in sight.

General Petraeus and his staff have made clear the risk of pulling out 30,000 troops this soon.  Obama has chosen to ignore their advice for political reasons.  Some will attempt to characterize this as a “gutsy call” when in fact it is anything but that.  It is the antithesis of a gutsy call – it is a decision driven by political and not military reasons.  In fact, it would appear the military’s reasons for wanting a much smaller withdrawal weren’t really considered at all.  That is to say, this was a decision made on a timeline, reality be damned. 

Interestingly, this was the “good war”, the “necessary war”, the “war we ought to be fighting” when Mr. Obama was a candidate.  As with much he does, he’s taken a swipe to satisfy political critics and is now pulling out to satisfy others.  The war (or is it a “kinetic event?”)?

It’s a “distraction.”

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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