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2/14/2012
Obama’s Tax Insanity

I have an article up at FPM this morning analyzing  some of the numbers from Obama’s fantasy budget he released yesterday.  I like James Pethokoukis’s take on it:

Pethokoukis also points out the cynically dishonest projections for economic growth upon which much of the budget is based: 3.4% growth in 2015, 4.1% in 2016, 4.1% inn 2017, and 3.9%  in 2018. Pethokoukis notes that the “U.S. economy has only seen a run like that three times in the past four decades. And the Obama Boom is supposed to happen amid rising tax rates, interest rates, and debt? Good luck, Mr. President.”

Of course, it has no chance of becoming law. But as a campaign document, it is quite instructive:

His spending “cuts” included in the budget do not touch entitlements, forcing the nation’s defense to take the brunt of the cutbacks. The defense budget will fall 4%. In practical terms, it means slashing eight Army combat brigades, six Marine Corps battalions and 11 fighter squadrons, and will start to pull two Army brigades out of Europe.

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy becomes a huge winner, increasing its budget a whopping 41% — mostly to fund Obama’s green energy fiascoes. The Department of Justice makes out a big loser, with its budget falling 15%. But it is where the cuts will be made that will rile Republicans. The president proposes to massively cut a program that reimburses states and cities for jailing illegal immigrants for committing crimes. Funding would fall from $240 million to just $70 million.

The Hispanic vote is vital to his re-election and allowing illegal aliens who have committed crimes out on bail or to simply disappear will no doubt sit well with liberal Latino groups who have been agitating against enforcing any of the nation’s immigration laws.

For some reason, the president is proposing a big increase for the Commerce Department. This useless federal bureaucracy will get a $10 billion gift “to help build an interoperable public safety broadband network.” Critics point out that the government has already spent $13 billion on radio equipment since 2001 and that a public auction of frequencies — ostensibly to recover the costs of the program — won’t realize nearly enough to pay for it.

Agency after agency, department after department, will see new spending. For the Department of Transportation, a pork-laden, five-year $476 billion highway bill and a $50 billion “infusion” for roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure. Did we mention the $47 billion for high speed rail? Such trivialities are an asterisk in this budget.

Foreign aid gets a boost, including $800 million for the “Arab Spring.” The president wants to create a “Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund” — explained in the budget document as a fund that “will provide incentives for long-term economic, political, and trade reforms to countries in transition — and to countries prepared to make reforms proactively.” Analysts are unsure if this is “new money” or simply collecting cash from other programs and placing it in a fund with a new name.

No comment yet from the Muslim Brotherhood whether Shariah finance rules will allow them to participate in the “incentives for reform” in economic, political, and trade matters.

Meanwhile, Medicare and Medicaid spending continues its unsustainable pace, rising 9% in FY2013. The administration is claiming $360 billion in savings as a result of paying doctors and hospitals less for Medicare services — the old “doc fix” that is added to HHS budgets every year and is shot down every year by Congress and the AMA.

One might expect the “green” energy initiatives, the defense cuts, and the massive increase in transportation spending where Obama’s union allies will get a windfall. But it is how the president wants to raise taxes that the class warfare theme of his campaign for re-election and, what can only be described as his hatred for the successful, the entrepreneur, the savvy investor, and the small business person, becomes apparent.

By: Rick Moran at 11:03 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

2/1/2012
Newt Soldiers On

Ross Douthat on why Gingrich can’t win the GOP nomination:

If Gingrich can’t compete in Florida, he can’t compete nationally.

To date, all of the Republican primary contests have been held in smallish states with distinctive demographic profiles. This made it possible to play up the significance of Gingrich’s convincing South Carolina victory, while downplaying Romney’s New Hampshire win as an independent-abetted, only-in-New-England fluke.

But Florida’s primary was closed to independents, Florida’s electorate was as conservative and Tea Party-friendly (though not as evangelical-heavy) as South Carolina’s and Florida’s large senior population once looked like it would give Gingrich an edge. If the former speaker couldn’t even come close to beating Romney in such relatively favorable terrain, it’s hard to see how he can hope to compete with him anywhere outside the Deep South.

The anti-Romney vote isn’t as big as Gingrich likes to think it is.

As the Florida polls turned against them, Gingrich’s campaign began hinting that Rick Santorum should drop out of the race and give Gingrich a clear shot at consolidating conservatives against Romney. If Santorum weren’t in the race, one of Gingrich’s campaign chairmen in Florida told CNN on Monday, “we would clearly be beating Romney right now.”

But as it turned out, Romney received as many votes as his two nearest rivals combined. And more importantly, pre-primary polls showed that without Santorum in the race, Romney would still have led Gingrich by a wide margin – as much as 16 points, according to an NBC/Marist poll. The fact that a majority of Republicans still have reservations about Romney, in other words, doesn’t mean that a majority would ever vote for Gingrich.

Romney’s down-and-dirty Florida campaign eased right-wing doubts about his toughness.

Romney hammered Gingrich in the debates, and then carpet-bombed him with negative advertisements. 68 percent of the ads that ran in Florida were negative spots attacking Gingrich, and Romney’s only positive ad was a Spanish-language spot that aired 15 times in total. While this gloves-off approach may have tarnished Romney’s image with swing voters, it helped reassure the many conservatives who were attracted to Gingrich because they want a no-holds-barred fighter for the fall campaign.

As John Podhoretz wrote on Monday in the New York Post, Florida was a test of Romney’s mettle: “The clean-cut Boy Scout Ken-doll candidate from Massachusetts needed to show his fellow Republicans that he could be mean, tough and merciless on the attack — that he could take it to his rival and best him.” Consider that mission accomplished.

Ross also cited Gingrich’s “lackluster debate performances” and how hard it will be to regain that “aura of invincibility” as a master debater — a key selling point for Gingrich who seeks to convince GOP voters he can destroy Obama in open debate during the fall campaign.

I don’t think Romney did much convincing as far as his ability to be “tough.” Watching Romney on the attack is like watching a Toy Poodle in  a standoff with a Great Dane. He can’t help but look cute rather than ferocious.

That said, Douthat nails the demographics of Newt’s problems. It would be one thing if Gingrich had come within 5 points or so of Romney. Then he’d be crowing about being outspent 13-1 and coming within a yard of paydirt.

But he didn’t. He got slaughtered. And where Gingrich carried every demographic group in South Carolina, he lost most of those same voters in Florida. It’s hard to see where Newt can get his MoJo back anytime soon. Next on the calendar is Nevada (2/4) — where Ron Paul is lying in the weeds waiting to ambush Mitt Romney — and the beginning of the Maine caucus process (2/4-11). The state that sent Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to the senate would seem to be decidedly unfriendly to Newt’s brand of populist conservatism.

It doesn’t get any easier. On February 7, two more Not-Ready-For-Newt states will hold caucuses; Colorado and Minnesota. Missouri will hold a beauty contest primary with no delegates at stake on the same day. Then on February 28, Arizona and Michigan will hold their primaries. Romney’s ties to Michigan are well known, but Arizona might be more receptive to Newt’s bread and butter message. Whether he will have the cash to compete there is another question altogether.

In short, it’s hard to see at this point where Newt can make a stand and stop the bleeding with a victory. Georgia holds its primary on Super Tuesday (3/6), as do Oklahoma and Tennessee — three states where he has a very realistic shot at competing. But he’s not even on the ballot in Virginia and without the money to compete in Ohio and a deficient organization in the three states holding caucuses that day, Super Tuesday is shaping up to be a Romney avalanche.

But Gingrich declared he plans to defeat “money power” with “people power” in the coming months, casting his campaign as a counterbalance to the “establishment.” That may be. But the history of insurgencies in major parties would suggest that Newt is fighting for principle now, and not the GOP nomination for president.

Originally appears on PJM’s The Tatler.

By: Rick Moran at 11:02 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

1/31/2012
The True Face of Occupy Wall Street

I had high hopes for the OWS movement when it started. I thought they would actually try to incorporate other points of view and develop a true grass roots reform movement to address the shrinking middle class - which is really what “inequality” should be about.

Instead, OWS has turned into just another lefty pressure group - albeit, a more dangerous one. While there is no George Soros sitting in his office pulling strings and directing the movement, there appears to be a common thread beginning to run through these demonstrations that is extremely troubling; they have been co-opted by radicals who seek to overthrow the existing order. What began as a left leaning critique of Wall Street and the big banks, has morphed into a systemic attack on American values and our character as a nation.

This, I cannot abide. And I really let them have it in this piece I wrote for FPM this morning on the Oakland riots:

The Oakland riot is proof positive that whatever claim to innocence and idealism the movement purported in the early days of occupations around the country has been lost to the gimlet-eyed revolutionary left, now openly seeking violent confrontation with authorities using the bodies of the naive and foolish who still believe that OWS is a protest against income inequality and corporatism. Cadres of organized leftists came prepared to the Oakland protest with homemade gas masks and shields — a clear indication that they fully expected to provoke a police response. Innocent protesters do not come armed with “bottles, metal pipe, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices and burning flares.” The transformation of the occupy movement from protest to “direct action” — the preferred tactic of the European Communist Left for generations — is nearly complete. There can be no sniveling denials from OWS apologists any more: The driving force behind the OWS movement — the goal of those who control the streets — is revolution and the overthrow of America’s capitalist system.

The mob action in Oakland occurred after authorities refused to allow the OWS demonstrators to make the Kaiser Convention Center their headquarters. Given the cavalier and negligent attitude toward health, safety, and sanitation at OWS sites around the country, it would seem logical that the authorities felt they had little choice but to deny the OWS use of any public venue that could degenerate into a cesspool of disease and crime.

The protesters refused to heed calls by police to back off and began to tear down barricades, destroy construction equipment and fencing, while refusing to disperse. Several hundred protesters then marched to the Oakland Museum of California where there were more arrests as the police tried to protect the priceless artifacts from potential vandalism.

Given what happened next, they were right to do so.

The mob moved on to City Hall where the protesters say they found a door ajar — which sounds fantastical — and police say the demonstrators broke in. A video purportedly shows an OWS demonstrator using a crowbar to pry the door open.

There is no argument about what happened when the protesters got inside the building.

A more than century-old architectural model of City Hall was damaged in its display case, electrical wires were cut, soda machines thrown to the floor, graffiti was sprayed on the walls, other display cases were smashed, windows were broken — a demonstration of lawlessness and lack of respect for property that even has some OWS leaders around the country saying it probably wasn’t a good idea.

Other OWS sympathizers took to the streets in “solidarity” with those arrested during the Oakland riot. CNN reports:

The mass arrests, described by police as the largest in city history, appear to have injected new life into the Occupy movement as protesters in a number of American and European cities took to the streets Sunday to express their solidarity with the Occupy Oakland group.

Marching in solidarity with rioters who took part in what one Oakland official referred to as “domestic terrorism,” is a curious way to demonstrate one’s peaceful intentions.

Now comes the fun part; the GOP will try to tie Obama and the Democrats to the OWS movement. What makes this so delicious is that there is going to be a probable riot in Chicago during the G-8 Summit in April. Adbusters, the radical consumerists who got the ball rolling with OWS, are calling on 50,000 demonstrators to descend on Chicago in April and, in their words:

And if they don’t listen … if they ignore us and put our demands on the back burner like they’ve done so many times before … then, with Gandhian ferocity, we’ll flashmob the streets, shut down stock exchanges, campuses, corporate headquarters and cities across the globe … we’ll make the price of doing business as usual too much to bear [ellipses in original].

A lot of bombast to be sure. But they include a call to imitate the “Chicago 8″ - the radicals charged with inciting a riot during the 1968 Democratic convention. Not very subtle, huh? This is a movement now that needs violence in order to get attention. And Obama, who has never really embraced the movement but has made supportive noises,  has adopted the rhetoric of OWS in order to skewer the GOP. The GOP should be all over him and his fellow Democrats when the crap hits the fan in Chicago and the tear gas is as thick as a morning fog over Lake Michigan.

I would guess that most of those who march or identify strongly with the OWS movement are peaceful Americans seeking reform. They will be cruelly used by those who are experienced at using the naive and innocent as cannon fodder for their revolutionary goals. This is not a reform movement anymore. It is an attempt to upend and overturn American society to make it something alien and unrecognizable from what we are today.

By: Rick Moran at 10:31 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

10/25/2011
LET’S HEAR IT FOR EXTREMELY AVERAGE AMERICANS!

If you think that the pointy headed elites and intellectuals in Washington have screwed things up and now it’s time for an “average” American to get a shot at fixing things, there is little doubt that Herman Cain is your man.

The guy oozes averageness. Sure he’s smart and all - about some things. For example, if we ever need a president who knows how to run a pizza parlor, we could do no better than elect Herman Cain to show us. Or, if we ever need a president who’s knowledge of foreign affairs is so blinkingly average that the globe in the oval office will have more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese, Mr. Cain will fill that bill.

Average is as average does. Who cares about excellence when average will do just fine? So what if Cain couldn’t tell you how a bill becomes law, or how the budget process works? He can hire people to show him how government functions. He can hire people to run his foreign policy. He can hire a bunch of people to delve into the nuances and personalities of government. All that stuff is superfluous, right? The important thing is to call Obama a socialist and hit the Democrats hard by calling them names and trying to convince voters that they are evil incarnate.

Meanwhile, it’s about time that us average people got our very own president. Perhaps we might also consider electing a below average president. Why not? About 50% of Americans are below average in intelligence and accomplishments. Don’t they deserve their very own president too?

* * * * * * * *

Of course, I’m exaggerating - a little. Cain is an accomplished business executive who finds himself drowning in the deep end of the political pool. Not his fault. Running for office is nothing like running a business. And a race for the presidency is far removed from being a Federal Reserve board member. Bottom line; Cain’s skill set does not match the job he is seeking. If he were hiring a president of the United States, Cain wouldn’t give someone with his experience and knowledge a second look.

And neither should we.

Walter Shapiro:

Herman Cain’s recent stumbles over substantive issues have a way of making Rick Perry seem like the Stephen Hawking of politics. In the midst of a softball CNN interview last week, he appeared to abandon his no-exceptions anti-abortion stance. The former pizza magnate also said that he hypothetically might swap terrorists held on Guantanamo for an American soldier-and then embarrassingly backtracked during the Las Vegas debate. Asked about his foreign policy orientation on Meet the Press, a baffled Cain replied, “I’m not familiar with the neo-conservative movement.” And listening to Cain constantly struggle to explain why his regressive 9-9-9 plan would not raise taxes for most Americans is a reminder of the punch line of an old joke: “Do you believe me or your own eyes?”

Shapiro’s criticism will no doubt be dismissed out of hand by most conservatives. Not because he is misstating the facts but because of where his column appears - The New Republic (epistemic closure, anyone?).

Shapiro identifies Cain’s strengths - and weaknesses:

Aiding Cain-and potentially defying past election cycles-is the fact that Republican voters are highly skeptical of the media: 72 percent of conservative Republicans and 62 percent of all Republicans believe that there is “a lot” of bias in news coverage, according to a national survey by the Pew Research Center. Anger at elected officials is the new normal. It is stunning that seven out of eight voters disapprove of the way that Congress is doing its job. Adding to this mixture is the fact that Republican voters-judging from every poll in this political season-would prefer not to nominate Mitt Romney. But the Anybody But Romney forces keep struggling with that ancient rule of politics and boxing: You can’t beat somebody with nobody.

This volatile combination is what makes the rising and raising Cain poll numbers so worrisome. The first active black candidate to have a remote chance of winning a Republican nomination may be shockingly ill-prepared for the presidency, but Cain is certainly not an extremist out of the Robertson and Buchanan playbooks. He is a cheerful conservative in the Ronald Reagan mold. Actually, Cain resembles Reagan during his GE pitchman phase-a talented speaker with scant experience in the political arena. But Reagan’s strength as a president flowed directly from his later experience of two terms as California governor and two failed presidential races.

Reagan gave what is generally considered the best fundraising speech in modern political history. His nationally televised address asking for cash for the Goldwater campaign brought in a motherlode of money that convinced some powerful California politicos that the Gipper could become governor. They were right and the rest is history.

But if you listen to that speech by Reagan back in 1964, one is struck by how ignorant it was when it came to the workings of government and politics. Reagan had an amateur’s view of politics back then and only after becoming a successful politician himself did the gaps in his knowledge and experience close.

Cain is nowhere near that point and 30 years ago, he would probably have been dismissed as an inexperienced crackpot. It’s not a question of his “averageness” or even his jaw dropping ignorance of vital foreign policy issues that makes his candidacy so troubling. Rather, it is the embrace by those who call themselves “conservative” that should have alarm bells ringing across the right from those who value bedrock conservative principles.

All this talk about dinging the “elites” and trashing the “establishment” comes down to one, very unconservative notion; the idea that people should be judged by their perceived membership in a group rather than examined as an individual, one at a time.

Since when did conservatives start playing identity politics? While we usually ascribe identity politics to matters of race, many conservatives today have expanded the concept to include class, wealth, position, accomplishment, and the extremely subjective notion that just about anyone who disagrees with the rabid base of the movement can be casually tarred with the epithet of “elitist” or “establishmentarian.” It is mindbogglingly stupid - no other way to portray it.

Oppose Mitt Romney because he is a shameless flip flopper. Oppose him because he is not a good conservative. Oppose him because you think that Romneycare should disqualify him from being nominated.

But don’t oppose him because you think he represents some kind of nebulous enemy you have designated as “elite.” And don’t go blaming the media, or Democratic dirty tricks, or anyone or anything else if the GOP nominates Herman Cain and, as he should, gets slaughtered by the most unpopular president in 30 years.

By: Rick Moran at 10:15 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

10/18/2011
But Cain He?

I have another article up at FPM this morning and its about the rise of Herman Cain and what he has to do to maintain his position as frontrunner.

A sample:

Cain’s rise is tied to the fall of Rick Perry, with his increase in support matching the decline in Perry’s numbers. Clearly, conservatives have found a new favorite, and it will be up to Cain to maintain the momentum as he moves forward.

But can he? This surge in support has come even as the candidate has little in the way of organization on the ground in key states like Iowa and New Hampshire — and precious little time to build one. His fundraising will no doubt pick up considerably, but there, too, he lacks infrastructure. Karl Rove said on Greta Van Sustern’s show, “If you’re running uphill, you better seize the opportunities that are given to you, and this is an opportunity which wandering around western Tennessee on a bus is not exploiting.” Rove was talking about Cain’s trips to Texas and Tennessee last week — states that don’t vote until March — while eschewing campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early primary states.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Cain is responding to the challenge. He plans on doubling his staff by the end of the month and open more offices in early campaign states. And as far as fundraising goes, his campaign pulled in $2 million the first two weeks of October, compared to $2.8 million the entire last quarter.

Beyond that, he is drawing huge crowds at his appearances. There were nearly 15,000 at six stops in Tennessee, including an overflow crowd of 2,000 that showed up in a barn in the tiny hamlet of Waverly. If professional politicos are concerned about Cain’s ability to reach out and touch ordinary voters, they need look no farther than this.

Worries aside, Cain’s rise is based on solid, political reasons that suggest he has the staying power to compete with former GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney all the way through the torturous primary process.

There really isn’t a secret to Cain’s success. At bottom, he is likable, charismatic, witty, charming, and bordering on brilliant. Those are characteristics any politician would sell his soul to possess and Cain has them in abundance. His debate performances have been outstanding, handling questions with surefooted aplomb. He articulates a conservative vision of government that speaks to the base of the Republican party in a way no other candidate can match. And for many, his lack of Washington experience is actually a plus, suggesting a campaign unsullied by the kind of “politics as usual” that most of the Tea Party wing of the GOP wishes to avoid.

But there are doubters and naysayers who view a Cain victory with a critical eye. Even the candidate admits he is not up to speed on many foreign policy issues. And opposition among some conservatives is building to his “9-9-9 plan” due to its lack of specificity and regressive characteristics.


By: Rick Moran at 10:20 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

9/1/2011
ROMPER ROOM POLITICS IN SPEECH KERFUFFLE

Let me get this straight. We have 9% unemployment, an obscenely high deficit of $1.4 trillion, a national debt that is exploding, the real possibility of a double dip recession, the loss of our gold plated debt rating, financial markets poised to repeat the meltdown of 2008, the Euro-zone facing its own financial catastrophe, two wars, and a restless, dispirited population.

And the president pulls a juvenile political stunt by knowingly and deliberately scheduling his speech on how he plans to assist business in creating jobs on the same day and time as a nationally televised GOP candidate debate?

James Carville:

“I do think this is a really big debate and I think the White House was out of bounds…in trying to schedule a speech during a debate,” Carville said on “GMA.”

This will be Gov. Rick Perry’s first debate, and as Carville said this morning the stakes are high.

“Given a choice between watching a debate and the speech I would have watched the debate and I’m not even a Republican or even close to being a Republican,” he said, adding it will be a “barn burner.”

This is the kind of stunt that Donald Segretti would have pulled at USC - or the Nixon White House where every cockamamie scheme to damage Democrats received a serious airing and some were even adopted. Segretti would send out flyers announcing a campaign appearance by a Democratic candidate only he’d give the wrong place and time.

Obama’s handlers thought that the GOP would acquiesce and move their debate because of the scheduling conflict and Obama would have made his point; the jobs speech is more important than the opposition political debate. He would have also scored points with his base for sticking it to the GOP.

But Boehner blew it up in his face, making his campaign team look clueless in the process. They managed to reschedule the speech on the same night that the NFL season kicks off with a game between the last two Super Bowl winners - Green Bay and New Orleans. Any bets on which event pulls in more TV viewers?

It isn’t so much the inept gamesmanship that is so bothersome. It’s the petty nature of the entire affair. The attempt at upstaging the GOP makes the president look small, indeed. Any time a president brings himself down to the level of his opposition, he comes off badly by comparison. It makes one wonder if these are the same guys who ran a brilliant campaign back in 2008 that ended up an electoral landslide.

Now they’re the gang that can’t shoot straight. Cenq Unger on Obama’s “Rope-a-dope” strategy:

Here is what all voters, and especially independents, despise and disdain in a politician — weakness. Nobody wants to see their leader get beat to a pulp every night and then bow his head again.

There is no secret, brilliant strategy. This White House is in a bubble. They think they’re winning when the roof is about to cave in.

I am forced to agree. If this is an example of their idea of strategy, the GOP could nominate a pie-eyed prostitute and probably win. They don’t have a clue on jobs, the economy, or most importantly, projecting an image of Obama’s leadership that would invite the public to support him. The picture most people are getting in their minds of the president is, contrary to what Unger says, a partisan, petulant, whining politician who blames everyone else for the nation’s problems and grumbles about how hard the challenges are. Democrats are finding it harder and harder to defend him and his policies. Soon, they won’t even bother and it will be every Democrat for themselves.

It’s not Obama’s willingness to “compromise” (?) or his efforts at “bi-partisanship” (?) that have him in trouble with the voters. Its that we have enormous problems and his policies are not helping. Trillions in “stimulus” spending and the best the White House can do is claim that all that cash “saved” jobs. Massive health insurance reform that we were told would “bend the curve” on health care costs that has done the opposite. More hundreds of billions spent on plans to prop up mortgages from underwater homeowners failing miserably. The list is endless - and depressing.

The speech ploy demonstrates that the president is not serious about getting the economy moving again and creating jobs. He is intent on getting re-elected while allowing things to drift, hoping that things don’t get much worse and that his efforts to blame the GOP for all the horrors in the world succeeds.

It’s not what we need from a president now. But it’s all we’ve got.

By: Rick Moran at 2:40 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

8/12/2011
SPARKS FLY IN IOWA

My take, up at FPM, on the debate last night:

The debate, sponsored by Fox News, the Washington Examiner, and the Iowa Republican Party, saw sparks fly early and often. Candidates directed most of their fire at President Obama, but Mitt Romney came in for his share of criticism and the two Minnesotans, Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Governor Tim Pawlenty, had several testy exchanges with Pawlenty criticizing Bachmann for what he termed her lack of a record while Bachmann charged that Pawlenty supported some of the policies of President Obama.

Pawlenty started the spat by accusing Bachmann of standing by in Congress while health care reform and other Obama proposals were enacted into law. “[H]er record of accomplishments and results is nonexistent,” said Pawlenty.

Bachmann shot back, listing issues to which Pawlenty appeared to agree with Obama. She said that Pawlenty “implemented cap and trade,” that he supported an “unconstitutional” individual mandate, and that he once said that “the era of small government is over.” The two combatants glared at each other as the exchange continued in that vein for several minutes.

Pawlenty must feel that he needs to open some daylight between himself and Bachmann, but his manner of doing so was perhaps too harsh. For her part, Bachmann more than held her own but seemed a little taken aback by the directness of Pawlenty’s assault. Both candidates righted themselves almost immediately and performed well for the rest of the debate.

Indeed, there appeared to be no clear winner for the evening. Mitt Romney made no major gaffes and seemed content to lurk in the background as the second tier candidates battered each other. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum criticized Rep. Bachmann for not going to Iowa to campaign against three state judges who ruled in favor of legalizing gay marriage, and almost everyone criticized Ron Paul for his curious stance on Iran.

Paul is expected to do well in the straw poll on Saturday, given the passionate support he receives around the country and his impressive ability to raise money on the Internet. But his stated belief that Iran should have nuclear weapons if it wants them no doubt reminded voters that many of the Texas congressman’s views are not in the mainstream of the party and indeed, are “fringe” positions.

Santorum and Herman Cain performed well but did not get to distinguish themselves as they appeared to be shorted in air time by the panel of journalists asking the questions. Former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman got plenty of questions directed his way, but his compatibility with much of the Republican Party is suspect. His answers showed him to be even less conservative than Mitt Romney, and he failed to adequately defend his positions on amnesty and gay marriage.

Huntsman, Romney, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich have opted out of participating in the Ames Straw Poll, each for pretty much the same reason: they don’t have a chance of winning in Ames and will not compete very well in the caucuses next January. Gingrich has drawn a line in the sand in South Carolina, while Romney and Huntsman are pointing to the New Hampshire primary for their supreme early efforts.

By: Rick Moran at 11:44 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

6/21/2011
TALKING TO THE ENEMY

Is it a good idea to negotiate with the Taliban?

I address this question in my latest column at FPM:

Ultimately, the question of leaving Afghanistan precipitously comes up when discussing the wisdom of talking to implacable enemies whose fanatical hatred of Americans would prevent them from compromising. The fact is, the army and police forces we are training to take over when all American combat troops are supposed to leave in 2014 are nowhere near ready, and have demonstrated little stomach so far to engage the Taliban in the areas assigned to them.

This is why the initial draw-down of US forces should be minimal, as the Pentagon is recommending. The president is set to announce his decision on Wednesday, but the pace of withdrawal would ideally hinge on the success – or failure – of negotiations with the Taliban. But the political pressure coming from even his own party to speed the withdrawal is intense, making any measured actions by the president problematic.

But there is a case to be made that it is far too soon to be pulling out of Afghanistan — negotiations or not. Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, writing in the Weekly Standard, make the point that if the ultimate goal of the war is to defeat not just the Taliban, but al-Qaeda as well, we must continue a high level of pressure on the Taliban in order to see our counter-insurgency strategy in Pakistan succeed:

Moreover, al-Qaeda is not finished because of bin Laden’s death. Senior leaders continue to live and work in Pakistan, coordinating operations with other al-Qaeda franchises around the world to attack Americans and America. What is the strategy for finishing this fight if we abandon Afghanistan prematurely or put progress toward stabilizing that country at risk?

The Kagans discern a connection between fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and destroying al-Qaeda in Pakistan. “Any rationalization that relies on separating those two undertakings is, in fact, misinformed and dangerous.” There is a symbiotic relationship that, if broken by a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan, would make our counter-insurgency efforts in Pakistan useless.

But political considerations appear to be the driving force in our attempts to negotiate with the Taliban. And there doesn’t seem to be any stomach in the administration – or on the Hill – for much else.

By: Rick Moran at 8:44 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/31/2011
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: IT’S OBAMA’S ELECTION TO LOSE

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative political talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I welcome Jazz Shaw of Hot Air, Ed Lasky of American Thinker, and Vodkapundit Stephen Green. We’ll discuss Obama’s re-election prospects as well as taking a look at some of the latest dismal economic news.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 4:39 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/27/2011
THE TWEEDLE DUM AND TWEEDLE DEE TICKET

My latest is up at Pajamas Media in which I make it clear that I am unhappy with the current gaggle of “ideologues, kooks, bomb throwers, party traitors, flip-floppers, and non-entities.”

A sample:

Now don’t get me wrong. Some of the candidates have a lot on the ball. Herman Cain appears to be an immensely talented man, although why he would want to run for president is a mystery. Sarah Palin is a born politician, although why that would recommend her as chief executive, I am at a loss to say. Newt Gingrich is a very bright fellow who took a wrong turn in life 30 years ago and ended up on the hustings instead of in the classroom where people would have enjoyed his lectures rather than resent them.

There’s not much wrong with Tim Pawlenty. There’s not much right about him either. He is a colorless non-entity — a dollop of vanilla ice cream covered with vanilla frosting. If he ever wore a gray suit, he would blend in with the background. Presidential material he is not.

The Libertarian contingent of Ron Paul and Gary Johnson is the designated comedy relief for the campaign. Count on them to say something so outrageous that even ideologues in the Republican Party have to disavow it. Safe to say, they will be a non-factor except at debates where Paulbots and Johnson Zombies will try to stuff the online ballot boxes in order to give their man a “victory.”

Given the paucity of talent, experience, and ability, the GOP might do better holding a “cattle call” for candidates. They do the same thing on Broadway to cast musical comedies and it seems to work out OK for them. Send out a notice to every agent in the city or simply put an ad in Variety about an open audition and hundreds of starving actors show up with dreams of glory in their heads.

Something similar could be figured out to find a decent GOP presidential candidate. An ad in the National Enquirer ought to bring in a few hundred applicants at least.

Wanted: Candidate to Run for President on the Republican Ticket. Experience in government desirable, but not required. Ability to communicate a must. Should be sensitive to right-wing social issues, hate taxes, despise government spending, and not like Muslims very much. Establishment types need not apply.

I’m exaggerating, of course. But not by much, and not so much that there isn’t a ring of truth in my analysis. Bottom line: The GOP has 2 or 3 candidates who could be elected president. But they have no one, I believe, who could make an effective president.

By: Rick Moran at 7:35 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)